As the new year gets off to a rousing start, I know many of us are thinking that there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. I know that's true for me, as I wonder how on earth it is already February! But at the same time, I've also begun looking at the ways in which I sometimes allow things to take longer than they should.
As philanthropists, we have the luxury of time. We rarely have make-or-break deadlines (although we give them to grant seekers), and even at our busiest, we're still moving at a leisurely pace compared to many of the people we fund. Too often we also allow our efforts to fill the time allotted. Last week, my client mentioned that regardless of whether her foundation needed to make 10, 20 or 45 grants, it seemed to take her staff the same amount of time.
What if we could move things along dramatically more quickly? What might we do with the time we save?
One of my Putnam team members recently facilitated a board retreat that was slated to last a full day. Bad weather was eminent, and many on the board were anxious about travel conditions. Rather than sticking to the program, my colleague used that sense of urgency to condense the board retreat discussions with laser-like focus. Instead of lasting a full day, the session concluded just after lunch, and everyone participating felt as though they'd accomplished everything they'd set out to do.
Maintaining a laser focus is a great way to expedite our work (especially when weather-driven urgency is present). How else might we incorporate that approach into our work? Perhaps we might consider:
- Scheduling phone conversations for no more than 30 minutes instead of a typical hour.
- Producing a 1-2 page summary report instead of a lengthy document
- Interviewing a smaller number of diverse stakeholders in our research efforts rather than the full spectrum
- Intentionally allotting less time for meetings and starting each one with a clear checklist of objectives to accomplish
- Following the 80-20 rule: If you are 80% ready you move. The remaining 20% rarely adds significant value, as it focuses too much attention on unimportant details. You can always make course corrections along the way (how else do you think I can write these newsletters every week?!)
- Identifying - and removing - barriers and log jams to streamline your operations
As for the time you might save with your new, laser-focused approach, think of the ways in which you could use that time more productively. You might catch up on some necessary reading, or meet with an important networking contact. Or you might use the time for personal renewal, like going for a walk or spending time actually thinking about something important. Or you could just catch your breath.
I'm certainly not advocating efficiency over effectiveness. However, I do like to end each day feeling that I've spent my time well - however I choose to define what "well" means.
How have you made the most of your time lately? What methods have you used to accomplish things more efficiently? Share them with me and I'll send you a free copy of my forthcoming e-book.