Overcoming Bad Habits – The Effective Nonprofit Marketer – Part 1

“Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control.” ~ Peter Drucker

Even for the most seasoned marketing and PR professional, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and re-examine the foundations of your department and the obstacles that are holding us back.  Upon that examination we often hear the same challenges and complaints from our colleagues:

  • lack of time
  • lack of budget
  • lack of organizational buy-in
  • lack of prioritization
  • lack of control
  • lack of technical expertise

Although these complaints are valid, too often we mistakenly identify the cause of these challenges and place blame upon others within the organization.  In reality, effective executives understand that such challenges are more often the result of their own actions or lack thereof.  Peter Drucker, one of the most influential writers on the subject of effective leadership and management, once discussed what he referred to as the 5 principles of the effective executive.  The book, “The Effective Executive”, was first published in 1967 but 45 years later the principal ideas of his writings are still relevant.  During the next week, I’ll touch upon these 5 principles or habits, and how a lack of self-awareness may be holding your department and organization back.

Time Consciousness

“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.“ – Lee Iacocca

The first step to becoming a more effective executive is understanding where your time is spent and better managing the available time you have.

For nonprofit marketers, communicators and PR professionals, the two biggest complaints that every survey uncovers is a lack of time and a lack of budget.  Unfortunately, we often address these two issues through fighting for a larger budget; when in reality, properly leveraging your time can increase productivity and allow you to establish a solid case for budgetary increases.  Organizational leadership is more likely to increase your budget if you can demonstrate measured results that show your department acting at maximum efficiency.

So where do we start?

Effective marketers understand that time is their scarcest resource, but they will always have a limited amount of discretionary time available within their schedule.  Recognizing those blocks of time and how they are being spent, allows them to eliminate unproductive activities and redirecting that time to more meaningful activities.  Unfortunately, many marketers believe that simply developing a plan and demanding a budget will solve their greatest challenges, but until you understand how your time is being spent, no amount of planning or money will solve your department’s challenges.

 Managing the beast

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” ~ William Penn

Below are some tips to help you evaluate and better manage your time.

  1. Relax!  – You can’t be all things to all people, nor accomplish all projects at once.  The sooner you recognize that only you can manage your time and workflow, the better.  The more you lose control over time management and allow yourself to become more “stressed out”, then the greater chance you will become paralyzed in your workflow and actually waste more time.
  2. Write it Down! – This doesn’t mean create a plan; think in more simplistic terms…Simply take a week of time and make it a point to write down how you are spending your time.  You can’t solve any problem, without first recognizing the contributing factors and how widespread the problem is.  Break your daily schedule into 20 minute, 15 minute or 10 minute increments and see how you spend your time.  You’ll be surprised at just how much time you spend on unproductive or irrelevant activities.
  3. Eliminate the Unnecessary!- Now that you know where your time is going, now you have to make the decision to cut out those activities that are not productive uses of your time.  Unfortunately, eliminating activities can also be the hardest part of the time management process; it requires an honest self-realization that there are times that you are simply “wasting your time”.
    • Just because you subscribe to 50 feeds and email newsletters, doesn’t mean you need to spend an hour each day reading 15 articles about the changes in Facebook’s news feed.
    • That 20 minutes each day watching your phone while you text message your friend or spouse really adds up.
    • Does it really contribute to your job to spend 10 minutes each hour scrolling through status updates?  Is a photo of your neighbors cat really that important?
    • Are you spending an hour a day, searching for “something new” while overlooking projects sitting on your desk that have enormous marketing potential?
    • Are you duplicating the work of your staff or find yourself working in competition?
    • Is it really necessary to spend 20 minutes each hour responding to emails and/or waiting for other to respond to your email?
    • Do you find yourself spending 3 hours each week producing an internal newsletter that only reaches 25 people and doesn’t really contribute to the organization’s mission?

    We would all like to say that we have no wasted time. But, is that really the case or do you find yourself justifying these activities as a way of enabling you to continue them?

  4. Delegate! – Now it’s time to formulate a plan of action, determine what you should be focusing your time on as an executive, and delegating responsibilities to your staff.
  5. Prioritize! – The same way that a marketing plan is driven by your organization’s strategic plan, you’re use of time should be driven by your department and organizational objectives.  As a marketing professional, you should never put yourself in a position in which “tasks” drive your schedule.  If you’re in that position, then it is time to review and enforce the policies and procedures that your department has established.
  6. Consolidate and Plan Again!  – Now it is time to take those little actions and begin to set them aside in blocks.  Rather than responding to emails as they come in, respond once an hour.  Rather than jumping from activity to activity without actually completing any of them, take them one at a time and don’t move on to the next project until one is completed.  Rather than treating each new request for support as a crisis, take a deep breath and ask yourself where it falls in the list of priorities.

Basic time management and consciousness are drilled into us from the earliest of ages, yet it is also the one aspect of our professional life that we need to remind ourselves of each day.  Without an effective use of time, you will never be an effective marketer.

It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about? ~ Henry David Thoreau

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