You don’t need six arms to get all your work done. Here’s a better way to start.
Sometimes what we really need to improve our volunteer management is a better handle on our workload — and sometimes we need a technological assist to get there.
That was the case for Barb Sheffer, CVA, a volunteer manager who decided to get intentional about taming her to do list. Barb is a member of my Leadership Circle, a group of talented volunteer engagement pros who are so committed to their work that they meet once a month to refine and expand on their skills.
Barb is the Volunteer Program Director for a national non-profit. She has a big job, managing volunteer programs locally and across the globe — a total of 4,000 volunteers worldwide.
It’s no surprise that Barb’s plate is beyond full on a daily basis. In addition to managing volunteers, she is responsible for the procedural part of the job (the unglamorous stuff like keeping manuals and job descriptions up to date) and for the big picture statistical analysis and forecasting that keeps her program aligned with the organization’s mission. Barb’s job often leads to 60+ hour work weeks — but in spite of the long hours, she did not feel like she was getting much done. If anything, the non-stop pace was bringing her close to burn-out.
Circle members set short term goals that they plan to complete within the month and report back on — accountability is one reason why this type of group is so effective. Barb’s goal has been clear: to figure out why she has been challenged to complete the tasks that she sets for herself.
Barb chose to use a free app to help her track her workflow — Toggl.* She was connected with Toggl by her brother, who uses the app to track billable hours in his business.
Each day, Barb tracks what she is working on and enters it into one of her eight major project areas. Then, every Friday, she receives a summary with charts of where her time was spent.
Here are the takeaways after six weeks of diligent time tracking:
Barb discovered that she was actually attending to more of her to-dos than she realized, even though she would still like to expand in certain areas.
Just using Toggl has kept her more on task. She finds that she manages her time more effectively and remains more focused when she knows she is “on the clock.”
The weekly summaries help her allocate her time throughout the day and match her activities to her goals. By better understanding her workflow, Barb knows “when to come up for air.”
Toggl has helped Barb make room for the impromptu visits or phone calls from volunteers that we all know so well – those unexpected moments when someone asks “do you have a minute?” and work takes second place to the volunteer’s needs. The app also allows her to feel comfortable jumping off the clock at lunch, when she makes a point of sharing a meal with her office volunteers and checking in with them.
What’s been the biggest surprise for Barb with Toggl? She enjoys the process. Time tracking has reduced her frustration level and the nagging feeling that she was just not getting around to everything. Tracking her time has become a habit that helps her reach her goals with less effort – and more fun.
Twenty Hats is authored by Elisa Kosarin, CVA, a nonprofit professional with 15+ years of experience in nonprofit marketing, development, and volunteer management. She founded the site to help volunteer managers master the skills they need to make their jobs easier.
Elisa Kosarin, CVA coaches, trains, and consults on volunteer management. She believes volunteers are a powerful force for change in our communities — if they are managed by volunteer engagement pros with the skills to cultivate this resource.