How Do You Waste Your Time?

Nell Edgington has a provocative post over on her blog about how nonprofit leaders waste their time:

As a general rule, nonprofit leaders are a self-less lot. You are so driven by your passion for social change that you are willing to perform any and all tasks required to get the job done. But there is a critical calculation that so many nonprofit leaders neglect. And that is to understand the value of their time and allocate that most precious resource effectively.

I agree with Nell’s analysis (as I usually do) and her suggestions for improvement. However, I want to emphasize a tool that many of my nonprofit customers have initially resisted, but ultimately embraced: tracking their time.

Nell’s analysis starts from the premise that nonprofit leaders know how they spend their time. I don’t think that’s accurate. Most have a general idea, but they don’t know how much little tasks distract them, and they have a hard time predicting how long any particular task will take.

The only way to find out is to find out. Track your time. With free mobile tools like Toggl, there’s really no excuse. You don’t have to do it all the time, but taking two weeks every month or so and diligently recording your time can bring enormous clarity. You might find that asking your team to do the same thing would raise everyone’s awareness of where the organization in fact spends its time. Lean management suggests that the first step in continuous process improvement is making the invisible visible, so that the organization can understand its waste. I guarantee you, tracking your time would lead to improvement.

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