How often are you working on one project and suddenly remember another task you have to complete immediately? You become frazzled and begin to have an internal battle over which assignment takes precedence because they both are due asap. Every person in your rolodex seems to have a question on the same day, and your email inbox is constantly overflowing with messages. On top of that, your phone will not stop ringing (you pick it up every time), coworkers interrupt you with the latest office gossip, and an impromptu meeting was called. Before you know it, three hours have gone by and you don’t have much to show for that time because you kept bouncing between several projects, emails, and people. Sound familiar?
This scenario is especially true for nonprofit organizations that usually function with a small staff. Take Volunteer Maryland for example, we have three full time staff members, an administrative associate, and two full time Peer Leaders working together to support over forty Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs) and Site Supervisors, attend site visits for all current and new partnering organizations, facilitate the upcoming Joint Training Day, plan Destination AmeriCorps, daily paperwork, and much more. How in the world do we manage to accomplish it all? Planning is key. Distractions are inevitable; however, they do not have to jumble your entire business day. Anyone can enhance their time management skills if they make time to create a plan of action.
One tool we shared with the VMCs this year was using Covey quadrants. Have you heard of them? I can attest to the tool’s success in helping me prioritize my many checklists and reduce the stress of “not having enough time.” Setting aside time to plan may seem ironic, but I’m sure you will find the planning time to be beneficial if you use the Covey quadrants wisely. Here is how they work:
1. Make a list of all the things you need to complete within the next three months. If this is too broad, feel free to adjust the time frame.
2. Next, draw the diagram above and begin to place the items on your list in one of the four listed quadrants. By doing this, you are able to see which assignments are the most urgent and important, and which ones are not.
3. Lastly, use the Covey quadrants to create daily or weekly checklists until you have achieved all of your goals. Simple, right?
Scheduling time to re-create Covey quadrants every few months can save you many headaches and keep the important projects at the forefront of your mind. Happy planning!