The Overworked Non-Profiteer’s Guide to Workload Management

Posted August 8, 2013 by Adrienne Asselmeier in On the Ladder
I’m not sure if people outside of the non-profit world (we call you “normies”) are aware of the stereotype of non-profit workers, but I can fill you in. We’re liberal arts majors who drive crappy cars and live in interesting neighborhoods and we have that high EQ, which is proven by the fact that we work harder for less money than people doing similar jobs in other industries because we believe in the cause.

We are notoriously over-worked and frazzled because we try to save the world with no money and not enough time.

Let me just confirm that all of these things are true. Well, maybe not always, but I’ve been around the non-profit world for a while and have dealt with things like non-existent budgets, long hours, and skeleton crews. For that reason, I thought that I should take this opportunity to relay a message to Career Girls everywhere.

Manage your workload so that it doesn’t manage you! 

These are my five tips for developing a workload that allows you to excel at your job and not lose your brains.

  1. Keep an activity log. It’s important to chronicle all of the things you do so that you can delegate, make efficient systems, and reflect on how you spend your time, and then assess possible changes. Plus, we’re all working in a shaky economy, and you never know when you may need to prove your value. For more information on this subject and a free template, visit Manager Tools.
  2. Ask for deadlines and priorities. Some bosses are great at delegating work with clear deadlines and priority levels, but others are notoriously bad. No matter your title, you have to know what thing should be your priority and when it will be due. My boss is so passionate that everything she asks me to do sounds like it is an emergency. After a recent discussion where I told her that I’m going a little nuts trying to do all of these urgent things at once, she literally told me that almost nothing she tells me to do is urgent. That was news to me! I now know to ask her for more information when she assigns me tasks.
  3. Streamline. Streamlining is not easy, especially if you’ve been in a position for a long time and can’t get an objective look at what you do. See if you can find a mentor or someone in your field to review your activity log and look for ways to consolidate. Ask people what they use for task management. I did, and I was blown away when I found out that for a small fee I could upgrade to a Hootsuite account that will let me bulk upload social media posts from CSV files. I planned four months of posts and uploaded them all at once. I can’t even imagine how much time that saved me! See if there are things like this available for your position, if you can integrate calendars or auto-populate things between documents.
  4. Get an assistant. Not everyone can afford an assistant no matter how much one is needed, but you can consider an intern or volunteer. I suggest that this is done for specific projects or terms because you don’t want to get someone to help you and then delegate so much work to them that you are totally swamped when that person is no longer around. You shouldn’t need an intern just to keep your head above water, but sometimes having someone to make phone calls, work on data entry, or do filing can free you up to do more long-term planning and higher-level work. Plus, you can pull your intern into some more progressive projects and help them get the work experience they’ll need post-college.
  5. Just say no. This one is difficult. It’s so easy to think, “It’s better that I do this thing and be stressed than have it not get done.” IT’S A TRAP! Pretty soon you’re doing work way below your pay grade, deadlines are getting missed, and projects are being done poorly because you are trying to take on more than any single human can accomplish. Make sure you’re sticking to your job description, that simpler work is delegated to people who are assigned to those general tasks, and always check to see if what you’re working on is the best use of your time. It may sound great to collaborate or participate in a special event, but if you’re already over-extended, just say no. You’d love to, but at this time you just wouldn’t be able to give it the energy it deserves.

Not included in my list of five steps is a small bit of sage advice: ask for help.

If you’re drowning and you can’t get a grasp on things alone, ask for help. It makes people happy to help others.

About the Author

Adrienne Asselmeier

Adrienne "Dren" Asselmeier is a writer and marketing specialist. Dren has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and is a blogger, runner, over-achiever, and friend to everyone. She likes to write about science-based health and fitness, small business ownership, and motivational topics.