Blog Archives

How are you improving your productivity in 2015?


plates spinningFor the last few decades, I’ve been on a quest to become more productive with the time I’ve been given. My counselor introduced me to the idea of mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises. Microsoft introduced all of us to Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. David Allen and Stephen Covey introduced us to time management strategies, tools and techniques.

Truthfully, all of these things have helped make me a more productive person, but I’m still looking for the holy grail.

Why?

I’m not sure. It could be a loose screw in my head. Or could it be that 24 hours in a day is simply not enough? Perhaps, it is most likely that as I get older life feels like it is going faster and faster with more balls to juggle and plates to spin.

With all of this going on in the background of my life, I was drawn to the question Beth Kanter posed in her January 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions post:

How are nonprofit folks strengthening their personal productivity online muscles in 2015?

I’m dividing this post into two sections. First, I want to talk about some of the new things I’ve been pursuing online to boost productivity. Second, I will talk about what I am doing off-line to tame the online beast that I’m feeding.

Online productivity

jugglerOn March 28, 2012, I published a blog post titled “Getting your ducks . . . er . . . volunteers in a row“. I talked a lot about various online services and software I had started using to work with volunteers such as Doodle, Google docs, GoToMeeting, etc. However, it was clear that I had fallen in love with an online project management service called Basecamp.

For the last few years, I’ve exclusively used Basecamp to work with my non-profit and executive coaching clients. It is intuitive and easy to use. Its functionality simply falls into the following areas: shared calendar, task list, documents file cabinet and writeboards.

I know this service fills a need in my non-profit clients’ professional lives. I know it because I’ve seen some of them continue their usage of Basecamp after our engagement ended. As our lives get busier and busier, Basecamp provides non-profit professionals and volunteers a virtual online space where they can collaborate and get work done without having to call another in-person meeting.

With all of this being said, I’m no longer convinced that Basecamp is the end all and be all of online collaboration services. A few weeks ago one of my clients asked me to look into Microsoft’s SharePoint and, much like Alice, I seem to have fallen down a rabbit hole.

Since the end of December, I’ve sunk time into:

  • watching YouTube videos about SharePoint
  • reading the book “Office 365 in Business” by David Kroenke and Donald Nilson
  • reading the book “SharePoint 2013 for Dummies” by Ken Withee
  • speaking with friends who use SharePoint in their office

Embarrassingly, I must admit that I’m still trying to wrap my head around what exactly SharePoint is and how to use it. I’m not a “tech-dummy,” but the functionality of this software/service is huge. In the interest of brevity, here is how Ken Withee summarizes the question of “What is SharePoint?” on page 40 of the Dummy’s Guide book I just referenced:

“Officially, Microsoft represents SharePoint as a “business collaboration platform for the enterprise and web.” SharePoint is a platform from Microsoft that allows business to meet their diverse needs in the following domains: collaboration; social networking; information portals and public websites; Enterprise content management; business intelligence; and business applications.”

In other words, it does A LOT and it is complicated.   🙂

I’ve concluded that the 21st Century will be a time of online evolution for non-profit organizations in the area of productivity and collaboration. In just the last few years, I’ve personally seen it with my clients as some embraced Basecamp and now others appear to be checking out SharePoint.

If you are one of those non-profits investigating Basecamp versus SharePoint, I found this awesome compare/contrast page created by TrustRadius. This is definitely worth the click!

Please scroll down and use the comment box to share some of your thoughts and experiences regarding Beth Kanter’s January 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival question. We can all learn from each other!

Offline productivity

meditationI remember it like it was just yesterday. In 2006, I started a new job working for a national non-profit organization providing resource development capacity building services to local affiliates. On Day One, I received my first ever “smart phone,” and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

It was a Palm Treo (you never forget your first true love).  😉

Since that time, I’ve gone from a Treo to a Blackberry to a Motorola Droid Razr to a Nexus 6 (Google’s first attempt at manufacturing a phone after buying Motorola Mobility).

My love of these mobile devices is rooted in the idea of 24/7 connectivity, which makes me feel more productive. However, my love affair has ended, and I’m starting seeing these little hand-held devil boxes as a ball-and-chain that adds weight to my work-life-balance challenges.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I started working with a counselor almost two years ago. Without getting too personal or entering the realm of TMI, let me just say that I’m working on stress and anxiety reduction strategies that include mindfulness, breathing and meditation.

As online services provide non-profit professionals greater levels of productivity, the price many of us likely pay is stress, anxiety, conflict, and loss of balance. Ironically, all of these things place a drag on our productivity.   LOL

For those of you looking for resources and advice about stillness and meditation, I suggest checking our Russell Simmon’s book “Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple“. It is an easy read and a wonderful place to start.

In the end, I believe you need to blend online and offline strategies to move the needle on your personal and professional productivity.

What are your thoughts? Please share your experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Do you have “balance” in your non-profit life?


Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “Catch More Life“. In that post, he talks about work-life balance, values and dreams. I think this is an especially appropriate post for this Friday because we’ve been talking about time management all week-long, which begs the question of work-life balance.

I loved John’s post this week because it came at just the right time in my life. A few weeks ago, I celebrated a huge anniversary — the day I decided to let go and “free fall” in life. It was the end of May 2011, when I left my job at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew that I couldn’t stay on the path that I was on.

After taking the summer to decompress and think things through, I realized that life is too short and decided to cease the moment. I started blogging. I invested time in doing things that made me happy. I opened my own small non-profit consulting practice in October 2011 and resumed what I love doing, which is helping non-profit organizations build capacity.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t do any assessment or evaluation work on my decisions until October 2012, but the anniversary of my departure from Boys & Girls Clubs of America threw me a curveball and I started asking:

  • Was this the right decision?
  • Am I making enough money to sustain the consulting practice?
  • Do I need to go back to work for “The Man”.   😉   (Sorry, Fred)
  • Do I need to change certain things about my consulting practice?

I started feeling the anxiety that comes with assessment and evaluation . . . until I read John’s post.

While I’m still not sure that I’ve made the right decision or if I am on the right path with my new business, I feel better about putting my anxiety away until October. I also feel a little better about the decision I made a year ago because at the core of that decision was exactly what the fisherman in John’s post is trying to do.

I also find myself concerned this morning about the state of the non-profit sector. Philanthropy News Digest reported a few years ago about a study conducted by the Meyer Foundation:

“. . . young nonprofit staff are concerned that challenges such as work-life balance, insufficient lifelong earning potential, a lack of mentorship, and overwhelming fundraising responsibilities may prevent them from becoming nonprofit executives.”

As I look at this report finding and then look at the fisherman in John’s post “Catch More Life,” I find myself nodding my head and thinking that the word “challenges” is an under-statement.

If you are an executive director, you shouldn’t dismiss this phenomenon because it fundamentally threatens the long-term viability of your agency. Perhaps, the best thing you can do is:

  • Sit down with your employees,
  • Figure out what they value in life and offer to help them achieve it while they work at your agency,
  • Help them develop a career and life path, and
  • In the final analysis, appreciate their choices as you figure out how to simultaneously meet your agency’s needs.

If you are a board volunteer, you should take a hard look at this report and do a number of things like address it in your organization’s strategic plan and compensation & benefits plan. You should also demand that your executive director model work-life balance and promote it.

If you are a donor, please consider funding capacity building initiatives that help non-profits grow their fundraising muscles, which in turn will bring more resources to throw at this challenge.

The non-profit sector is at-risk and we are our own worst enemies. Is it possible for the fishermen and businessmen from John’s post to co-exist in the non-profit sector?

Do you personally have a work-life balance challenge? How are you addressing it? Does your agency have a balance issue with regards to the organization’s culture? Are you addressing it? If so, how? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Work-Life Balance for non-profit professionals? Ask a donor for help.


Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “At Peace“. In that post, he talks about two different pictures and uses those images to illustrate the point that there is a difference between “at peace” and “getting some peace”.

After reading this post, I couldn’t get my mind off of the idea of work-life balance. This topic of conversation comes up all the time when I’m talking to non-profit professionals. As I previously blogged about in a post titled “Kissing While Driving for Non-Profit Agencies,” non-profit organizations are typically under-resourced. As a result, almost all nof the on-profit professional who I know wear multiple hats, lack balance in their life, and appear to be on the brink of “going postal”.

At Peace? Definitely NOT!

Over the last 15 years, I’ve battled with the ideas that John eloquently lays out in his blog post. The following are just a few things that I’ve tried:

In hindsight, John is so right . . . I was “getting some peace” in most of those instances. So, what can non-profit professionals do to be “At Peace“????

I like John’s suggestion that re-evaluating and adjusting our expectations about what “peace” really means. In his post, he talks about the picture of a violent waterfall, jagged mountains and an angry sky being a picture of “peace”. Maybe accepting this idea rather than fighting against it is more than half the battle.

I also like John’s challenge at the end of his post where he asks the following question:

“Perhaps, when leaders disrupt our peace when making organizational changes, they should orchestrate efforts to enable us to adapt and change?”

As I contemplate this question, I struggle with what those efforts might look like.

So, I have a suggestion for all of you who find yourself struggling with the same question:

  • Open your donor database.
  • Run a report showing your agency’s top 50 lifetime donors.
  • Scan the list in search of a donor who owns their own business, has gone through some change initiatives in the last few years, and appears to be busy and yet peaceful.
  • Pick-up the phone and call that donor.
  • Invite them out to share a cup of coffee.
  • Tell them about John’s blog post topic.
  • Ask them to share their secrets to success with regards to being “at peace”.
  • Ask them what efforts they orchestrated at work to help their employees adapt and change and in effect putting their workplace “at peace”.

Not only will you most likely get some great advice, but this conversation will have a “stewardship effect” for that donor. It will deepen a relationship with someone who is already important to your organization.

I like this suggestion mostly because it reminds me of the fact that donors are not just ATMs that produce cash every time we ask for it. Donors are friends and part of our non-profit family. We can put this principle in action by asking them to donate their knowledge and experiences in addition to their financial contributions. In doing so, the relationship gets stronger and grows.

Do you struggle with work-life balance issues at your non-profit organization? What have you personally done to try to achieve balance? What has your agency done to help facilitate this idea of being “at peace”? Have you ever engaged donors in questions like this? How did it work out for you?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

%d bloggers like this: