4 habits of highly effective people: how taking time out can improve your success rate

4 habits of highly effective peopleWith competing priorities, limited budgets and a lack of time, I know that non-profits often struggle to fit fundraising in to their daily routine.

However, rather than working harder, often you have more chance of being more successful by taking a step back from your day to day routine.


At a recent conference I attended, one of the common themes for the day was that most small business-owners were under resourced and over worked, spending too much time working IN the business and not ON the business.

Sound familiar?

When was the last time you had the opportunity to step back and take a strategic view of your charity rather than simply delivering the mountain of tasks that you have to deliver?

I know that you’re probably reading this thinking ‘I have no time to take a step back!’

It’s difficult to justify time out of the office, but taking a step back to reassess priorities will help you to move forwards, increasing your productivity.

Taking out 2 days to attend the conference I mentioned, gave me the space to think through my business, and helped me to see what was working and what wasn’t, as well as giving me a better focus on what energises me and what I find a drain.

More importantly, I’m not only inspired to take action but I am committed to it as I’ve invested precious time and money away from the office.

Small organizations have small resources coupled with time pressures but, counter-intuitive though it seems, you will manage these better by taking time out to get a different perspective.

Easier said than done? Here are my tips for getting the best out of time away from the office:

Be Focused

Taking time out for the sake of it isn’t necessarily a good thing (although it can recharge your batteries). However, to ensure you get the most out of it as possible, you should have a clear idea of:

  • why you’re taking time out
  • what you want to achieve
  • and the timescale for putting these achievements into action

So perhaps the most effective use of your time would be to have a board away day to harness the potential of that board that you currently under-utilize. Or perhaps you need to get all of your staff on board with fundraising, but they are too busy during the day to day routine?  Consider what would best serve your organization in terms of moving forward.

Is it training, mentoring or strategic planning – and then look at the options for helping you to achieve this.

 “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” Zig Ziglar


Keep learning

Once you’ve considered what you need to do to achieve success – or indeed, what success even looks like you may have a clear picture of where the gaps are in terms of expertise. Are there training opportunities that you should invest in now to ensure that you can realise your organizational potential?

Do you want to improve your leadership skills? Or have more practical, task based needs, like learning social media or how to write proposals?

Take the time to think about training needs from an organizational perspective – ie what will drive you forward – and then research your options.

Training doesn’t have to be expensive. There are webinars and ecourses that cost a fraction of those you have to attend ‘in person’ and don’t take up your precious time with travel.

Are there local organisations that run training and offer subsidised rates to charities and social enterprises? And if they don’t, is it worth asking them if they’d give you a discount?


Network with others

Similar to continuing to learn more formally, looking outside your own organization, and seeking new experiences will also help improve your success, by giving you a different perspective.

Networking with others outside your organization is crucial to giving you a different outlook on common problems or challenges.

At the conference, we did a session on negotiation where we were partnered with the person sitting next to us (someone I’d never met who works in a completely different field from me).  That 10 minute exercise alone gave me the solution to a particular problem I was facing. In fact, it was worth the conference fee alone!

There may be groups or networks in your area that you could join but if not, why not suggest a regular get together with like-minded people? It doesn’t have to be a huge time suck – it could be a lunch or a drink after work once a month but make it productive by having an agenda or a particular area that you want to discuss.


Get outside your comfort zone

It’s a well known fact reading different topics, meeting different people and, in particular getting out of your comfort zone can give you a different perspective and fuel those creative juices. So don’t always stick to your own sector when it comes to networking. Attend local small business networking groups with a range of different businesses, charities and social enterprises.

Work in fundraising? Read more about marketing or PR or leadership.

Fundraise for an international charity? Look at higher education or the arts or social enterprise – are there any lessons you could learn and apply?

[Tweet “Read ‘4 Habits of Highly Effective People’ & change your perspective”]

Its easy to feel that you don’t have the time or resources to invest in yourself but the reality is, if you don’t, you will be less successful as a result. 

By being choosy about what you invest in and really focusing on the needs of your charity time spent working ON the charity will greatly increase the value of the work that you do IN the charity.

You’ll get a new perspective, identify areas that need more support and those that don’t, establish goals and give yourself the encouragement to stick to them too! 

Perhaps best of all though, you’ll grow your networks. When you work in any small organization, having people on the outside who don’t have a vested interest in what you are doing, but who are cheerleaders for you can really motivate you to achieve your goals!

So, instead of ploughing through your ‘to do’ list, why not spend half an hour thinking up ideas about how to move your organization forward.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences of training, networking or just taking time out and how they improved your productivity, planning and overall success, so please leave your comments in the box below.


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