You can’t do it all: 5 productivity tips for nonprofit managers

We live in a “kill two birds with one stone” society. We’re conditioned to do as many things as possible—and be proud of it, too. We’re watching TV, while talking on the phone, while our laptop sits open.

It’s no different in the nonprofit world. It can be tempting to have our hands in every bucket of the organization, chipping away at multiple topics at the same time.

Unfortunately, trying to be chief cook and bottle washer can lead to burnout and mediocre work. Piecemealing your attention to a variety of different tasks means something will inevitably suffer.

A Stanford University study found that people who multitask too much “are more easily distracted, less productive, score lower on tests for recalling information, and make more errors.”

Here are some tips to do more by doing less:

1. Work on one thing at a time.

This will focus all your energy on producing a quality output, which could save you time in the long run (not as much going back to fix problems or make changes!).

Giving your attention to one task also harnesses all your brain power. No more sharing it with thoughts of all the other things you are working on.

Imagine what you could come up with when you are running on all cylinders!

2. Back away from the email.

If you’re constantly going back and forth from your work project to your email, your focus will never be at its best.

Emails will always be there, so set aside designated times to check them. You could do a half hour two to three times a day, instead of letting your inbox be a constant time-suck in your day.

3. Schedule big tasks during your “peak” hours.

If you take a while to warm up in the morning, or if you aren’t at all-systems-go after 3:30, don’t schedule complicated projects during those times. Understand your optimal work periods of the day, and do the important stuff then.

You’ll be less distracted, be full of brain power, and ready to crank out the work.

4. Try schedule blocking.

Unlike simple to-do lists, schedule blocking gives each task a set amount of time—or block—to segment your day and keep you focused. These blocks make your time intentional and more productive.

Sit down every Friday and block out the following week. Or do it the day before each day.


Georgetown University professor Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, champions this method.

“It allows you to schedule work for the time where it makes the most sense—batching together small things, tackling hard things when you have the long stretches to make progress, and so on. The other advantage is that it provides you more accurate feedback on how much free time you actually have most days and how long certain recurring tasks actually take,” Newport said.

5. Automate what you can.

No matter how productive you are, there are only so many hours in the day.

With some pre-planning and scheduling, though, you can get more done for your nonprofit.

Take your content, for instance. Create a content calendar to help you keep track of important dates, organize your content, and (most importantly!) save you time.

Once you’ve gone through the steps in the content section to compile all your fabulous material, it’s time to schedule it. Make sure to vary the types of content and the mediums you use. Include a healthy mix of blog posts, social media posts, written content, photos, videos, and emails.

Use a free tool like Hootsuite to schedule out your content calendar will help you set it and forget it. Schedule your social media posts days or even weeks in advance, and then move on to the next thing on your list!

Chances are that your nonprofit is your passion. And your passion deserves your full focus. Be intentional about your work and get more done.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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