The topic for this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival is personal productivity online. In a nutshell my advice is to spend time on your blue chips and don’t let the monkeys sit in your lap. Let me explain.
Years ago, when I worked in corporate America, I was in a training class where we did this exercise. Everyone was given a long list of questions to answer and 20 minutes to finish as much as we could. You handed in your answers and got your chips as you completed each question/task. Some of the questions could be answered easily and some took more time and thought. For each answer you got a white, red or blue chip. White chips were 1 point, red chips were 5 points and blue chips were 10 points. You only needed to answer two blue chip questions to win. If you spent the whole time on white chip questions you would never get to finish 20 of them in the time available. The point of the exercise – spend your time on the blue chips (most important items) first. It’s true that they usually take more time but it is worth allocating the time. This lesson has stayed with me for a lifetime.
I think this is a particularly important advice for nonprofit leaders – especially small nonprofits with limited resources and people wearing multiple hats. Small nonprofit leaders always seem to talk about all the things they have on their plate and why they aren’t getting to something they think is really important. Often they are in the self-imposed white chip trap.
When I was first promoted to be a manager my boss gave me this advice. He said, “People will come to you - not because they want you to solve their problems – but because they want you to understand their difficulty and why something isn’t getting done. Be careful that you don’t take the monkey from them because before you know it your desk is full of monkeys and you can’t do your job.” It was great advice. Each of us should be accountable for our own responsibilities. Nonprofit executives can be too quick to take the monkeys and feel personally responsible for everything Do you recognize any of these scenarios?
- ED takes on answering phones during lunch hour every day rather than letting calls go to voicemail.
- ED gets involved in the details of what interns will work on when it could easily be decided by an immediate supervisor.
- ED gets involved in daily operations in ways that establishing policies and protocols could eliminate their involvement.
Notice anything familiar yet? We all spend some time on the white chips. If you want to improve your personal productivity you need to to step back, identify your white chips and monkeys – especially the repetitive ones – and re-engineer the process to eliminate duplicate or unnecessary work.
The topic of the carnival is supposed to be about personal productivity ONLINE. So let’s talk about online.
The first step is to know your objective and audience. Are you using online activity as a resource, for marketing, fundraising, advocacy, awareness? Who is the audience? Where do they hangout? If your answer is everyone and everywhere you will be spending too much time on the white chips. If your answer is everything, then I suggest you send some monkeys packing.
You can use measurements, analytics and soft data too to figure out where you are getting the most bang for the buck online and which areas have the most potential for growth. I use google analytics to analyze which of my blog articles get the most attention and how the traffic is being driven. I peel the information in several ways. Since I am mostly – not completely – a local business I analyze how much of the traffic is coming from local sources. I look to see which articles inspire people to look at additional pages and not just the landing page. I analyze the data in different ways depending on what I am trying to accomplish. I actually have two blogs this one and The Grandma Chronicles. At the Grandma Chronicles I write about being a grandmother and product reviews. What is so interesting is that the drivers to each blog are very different.
I have not had much luck with my nonprofit consulting blog facebook page. In my case linkedin groups, pinterest (yes, pinterest) and participating on other blogs is most effective. I use twitter for resources and peer interactions but not for business development. At both of my twitter accounts I have about 8 lists and when I am at twitter I don’t go through the feed. I use my lists so that what I am reading is focused. For consulting the topics include governance, nonprofit technology, NJ nonprofits, philanthropy, executive search, etc. MyWishlist of Books for Nonprofit Folk Pinterest Board drives traffic all the time since I post new pins throughout the year. The Wishlist is my signature piece so I give it attention all year long.
For the Grandma Chronicles, facebook is more effective. This page likes a bunch of grandparenting, parenting and toy company pages and it is very easy to have interesting stuff to post all the time. I intersperse this treasure trove with my own original material and the facebook page drives traffic to my blog where people do click on my Amazon links. Pinterest is also effective with the grandma crowd. Participating on twitter or linkedin is a zero and participating on other blogs is not very effective. For this “business” I would like to have readers anywhere in the United States and being local is irrelevant.
The monkeys? There are lots of them in your email. They are jumping around and want desperately to land in your lap. Delete, unsubscribe and forward with a copy to sender – letting the sender know they will hear back directly from the responsible party.
So to sum up – be more productive online by playing your blue chips instead of the white ones and staying away from the monkeys.