The Olympic Way to Prioritize Workflow
Every Monday morning, I get to work early, have a cup of coffee, listen to classical music and begin to think about the workweek ahead. I look at each day of the week and study my trusty to-do worksheet. I also determine which major projects need to be done and which ones are on the horizon. I get frustrated if I realize I missed a specific important task the week before or I actually have more work in front of me to complete. During this important task review process, I seek to determine what items I can delegate to others under my authority. I constantly seek to improve effectiveness and efficiency in my work performance.
If you are organized and a perfectionist, you know the excitement when you check off an item on your to-do list.
Many of us in the nonprofit world are not so organized.
In fact, you probably get frustrated at the daunting task of determining workflow priorities. The thought of creating a to-do list is the last thing you want to do. Thus, you drift from one assignment to another, not realizing the impact of time parameters or priorities to your work assignments. Some of your ability to maintain priorities depends upon your superiors’ or subordinates’ influence over your workflow.
As you gain more experience and confidence, you quickly will realize when you have bitten off more than you can chew. Balancing the demands of workflow priorities will continue to grow and frustrate you and others in your work world unless you realize your situation and attempt to address it in some manner.
Going forward, I have a suggestion for you.
You must realize how to rank job projects and tasks. Think about the Olympics. Categorize your workflow and to-do tasks as gold, silver or bronze in nature.
Items placed in the bronze category are at the lowest level of importance and your time. These tasks might have the longest timeframe to complete. Certain bronze tasks can wait until you or someone else determines the items need to be of higher priority. Bronze items also are on your to-do list the longest and could be the newest to your list. Some of these items might also fall off of your list altogether. You only have a certain amount of capacity and time to devote to the list.
If your job priorities land in the silver category, they are more important than the bronze tasks, but require additional information or research to move into the gold category. These items are in the middle of the priority road. The time window for completion of silver tasks typically is shorter than bronze tasks. Sometimes your boss or immediate subordinates have made silver items more relevant to you. Usually none of the silver items will be leave your to-do list until they are completed. Over time and mastery of your workflow, you will understand where silver activities fall.
If you make priorities gold in nature, you have determined these are the most important at any given point in time, whether short- or long-term in nature. These items are important to you and the organization. They may stay on the list the shortest amount of time, as you feel they must be done sooner than later. Gold items usually move to completed status rather than silver status.
Sometimes, events, activities and processes are out of your control, which affects your workflow chart. If you can master an Olympic workflow chart, you probably will devote 50 percent or more to gold tasks, 30 percent or so to silver tasks, and 20 percent or less to bronze tasks.
Time management for any executive is a must. To succeed, you constantly have to determine what job tasks are most important and deserve your primary attention. Balancing competing priorities is hard but gets somewhat easier with experience.
Regardless of whether you like an Olympic medal system or not, create a system for your personal workflow today. You have no time to waste.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.