Time-Saving Tools You Need Today

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Nonprofit Capacity Building, Nonprofit Leadership Development

 

As leaders, our most valuable asset is our time. Yet too often, we give our time away to unimportant tasks.

Endless meetings.

Constant interruptions.

Hours wasted troubleshooting IT problems because our organization doesn’t have the budget to hire real support.

We have all been there.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. Over our years working with nonprofit leaders, business leaders, and nonprofit consultants, we’ve homed in on the simple steps you can start taking today to take back control of your time.

 

Step 1: Identify Time Vampires

The Urban Dictionary identifies a time vampire as:

“something or someone who literally sucks your time like a vampire sucks blood.”

For example, a colleague popping by your desk or sending you a chat message, a meeting with no agenda, or a request to “look something over” that isn’t core to your role.

One way to identify and quantify these time vampires is to start tracking your time. A lot of folks we know use tools like Toggl Track, but time tracking can be as simple as making notes on a piece of paper.

Be sure to note interruptions as well as when you’re extra focused and productive. Ideally, after a week or two of tracking, you’ll get a clear view of when you work best, how you work best, and who and what is stealing your time.

If you need even more motivation, add up all that lost time and multiply it by your hourly rate. The dollar value can be an eye-opener!

 

Step 2: Set Priorities and Boundaries

Two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin advised us that “lost time is never found again.” With social media, always-on messaging, and constant notifications, this wisdom is even more pertinent today.

Once you know where and how you are losing time, you can start reclaiming it.

  • Stop interruptions with time blocks. There are multiple ways to use time blocks. To minimize interruptions, you can block off dedicated time on your calendar that says “do not interrupt.” Then, turn off notifications, don’t check email, and, if you’re in an office, consider putting a sign on your door. To get the most out of those time blocks though, you also need to hone your focusing skills. Research shows that 52% of interruptions in at work are self-interruptions!
  • Decide which work is most important—and prioritize that. If you review all the tasks on your to-do list, I bet you’ll find plenty that aren’t actually urgent or that someone else could easily do.
  • Delegate the rest. If you’re a manager, brush up on your delegation skills and practices and put them to use. If your team is smaller, consider outsourcing. Whether it’s a virtual assistant, a grant writer, or an IT firm, outsourcing can be a quick and affordable way to increase your capacity—and free up your time.
  • Make your meetings matter. We can’t avoid meetings completely, but we can make them more effective. From asking “could this meeting be an email” to requiring agendas in advance, meetings can be transformed from time wasters to productivity enhancers. But it takes some work. If you’re still struggling with meetings, check out our webinar packed full of proven practices to improve your meetings.

Consider easing into these new routines slowly. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Maybe start with no-meeting time blocks for one week. Then the next week, you can start to hone your ability to focus during those time blocks.

 

Step 3: Streamline, Streamline, Streamline

Once you’ve mastered the practices above, it’s time to find even more time and energy savers in your day. This is where productivity tools can give you a big boost. For example, project management tools like Asana can help you manage projects within and across teams—and eliminate the need for extra meetings.

If there are tasks that you or your team do regularly—like client intake, meeting scheduling, invoicing, bill payments, or even budget projections—take the time to review every step of the process and identify inefficiencies. Trust us, there are usually many!

When you’re ready to go one step further, you can start testing out different productivity systems. For example:

  • Bullet Journaling (a pen-and-paper system that one of our team members loves).
  • Daily Trifecta System (where you focus on three to-dos per day).
  • Eat the Frog (where you get your most difficult task done first).
  • The Eisenhower Matrix (which helps you sort tasks based on urgency and importance).
  • Getting Things Done method (which offers a clear, five-step process for organization and prioritization).

Because we all work and think differently, we recommend trying out each system to find the one (or even two or three) that helps you the most.

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