What are the most common complaints of small nonprofit leaders?
I bet they are:
Not enough energy
Not enough money
Not enough time
All three of those are bullshit.
Now, for the bullshitter, the best kind of bullshit is the believable kind. Since most people you know likely have a problem with energy, money, or time, they are likely to sympathize with your own struggles.
This sets up a perfect situation for making excuses.
I speak from experience. In my 20 years leading community projects and small nonprofits, I am ashamed to admit that I likely spent more time complaining and making excuses than actually making good use of what I had.
Since everyone around tended to be complaining about the same things, we didn't call each other to account. We just wallowed together.
And dug our holes deeper.
My older, wiser self says to my younger, immature self: "Excuse me, but WTF?"
To which my younger, immature self replies: "What do you know, old man?"
Here's what I know (from years of foolishness, good intentions gone wrong, and well-meaning mistakes):
Fact: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed (look it up!).
Fact: Money can be created (look it up!) and, as long as you're alive, you can always get more.
Fact: Everyone receives the same amount of time, which must be enough because that's all God thought we needed to do what we're here to do.
If science and theology agree on how much energy and time exist in the universe (and how much of it each of us get as individuals), then we only have ourselves to blame if we feel like we don't have enough energy and time.
If wealth can be created (and it can), we only have ourselves to blame if we feel like we don't have enough of it.
I'm not saying that some people don't have it easier than others. Nor am I saying that the choices we make in life don't affect our access to energy, money, and time at a given moment.
What I am saying is that whether we feel like we have a little or a lot depends on how we are leading and taking responsibility for ourselves.
We don't control, manage, or possess energy, money, or time; we lead ourselves through those things. We have a relationship with them. What kind of relationship depends on us.
In the last couple of years, I came to clearly see the origin of my energy, money, and time problems; it was me. I was making bad choices and falling back on the old excuse about not having enough of that or this. The excuses only enabled me to make more bad choices.
So, where I used to complain about not having enough energy, money, or time, I now talk about getting better at leading and taking responsibility for myself. This is especially important because I'm leading more than just me; I'm leading my family, my small nonprofit, and my social enterprise. How I lead myself directly affects how I lead the missions and people who are depending on me to do my job.
Self-leadership that translates into organizational leadership is easier when you have good tools.
For example, I don't know how I would keep my life and work in order and running well without Google Calendar. My trusty journal (good, old-fashioned paper and pen) are where I find meaning and order each morning and write down my plan for the day.
One of the most life-changing and valuable tools of all is the Time-Blocking Tool I created for myself a few years ago. I've been perfecting it ever since.
I use this tool to plan every week. My life quality and productivity continue to get better and better the longer I use it.
The Time-Blocking Tool rests on three assumptions:
As a human body's health, resilience, and strength depend on daily rituals like brushing teeth, eating regularly, and sleeping, a small nonprofit's health, resilience, and strength depend on daily and weekly habits.
If we keep up with our daily and weekly habits--if we don't defer regular maintenance activities--our small nonprofits grow stronger--seemingly on their own and with less effort. Doing a little of the same thing each day actually frees up a lot of time for new ideas and opportunities. How? By eliminating the energy, money, and time cost of deferred maintenance and by making us so good at our habits that they take less time to perform each day and week.
Our bodies and minds work best in 50-minute blocks. A standard work week breaks down into 40 50-minute blocks. When we take 30 minutes each week to plan each of those 50-minute blocks, it increases our pleasure and productivity many times over. It's actually mind-blowing how much more you can get done and how much more you enjoy doing the work when you assign an activity to each 50-minute block.
You can download the tool here. Use the first page as a worksheet for time-blocking your own work week. The second page contains instructions and the third page is an example of completed work week plan.
Please give it a try and let me know if it makes as much a difference to you as it has for me!
Onward and upward!