Very, Very Busy

Very, Very Busy

I’ve watched many co-workers and clients be busy. Very busy. I’ve heard them talk about how busy they are, and how far behind they have fallen in their workload. I’ve felt overwhelmingly busy. Does that actually mean that there are not enough hours in the day to do the work that needs doing, or does it mean something else? After watching Laura Vanderkam’s TED talk at TEDWomen 2016, I think it might be something else.

Working in a young, small, or emerging non-profit has its particular challenges that can create a frantic environment:

1.     Lack of funding

2.     Demand for service outpaces capacity to deliver

3.     Staff with incompatible aptitudes

Though Vandkerkam talks about deliberately creating time to do the things we love, I believe that we gravitate to the things that we are good at and where we feel our purpose is validated. Those are our aptitudes. Those are the hard-wired talents and skills that make a person shine in the right environment.

How many of our staff members have the aptitude for the lion’s share of the work that they are asked to do? Small shop staffing usually means that people are asked to wear many hats. If the Development Director in your small shop is required to run the annual fund, recruit and manage volunteers, solicit major gifts, generate all correspondence, plan events, manage the database, and fill in the blank, which of those speak to her aptitudes? The parts of the job outside of her aptitudes, though she still might be extremely competent, will likely take a disproportionate amount of time to execute.

Two ways to ascertain aptitude are:

·       Have your staff tested by a company specializing in this, like the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation

·       Have each staff member keep a work log for two weeks. They will record what they did each hour of the day, including breaks and impromptu discussions with colleagues.

In analyzing the results, we can see both efficiency and ways that time is not well spent. Can we pool resources? Redistribute workload? Recruit volunteers? Or, change roles within the organization?

Johnson O’Connor understood the importance in identifying aptitude in the 1920s industrial workplace. He understood that employees are more productive and happy at work if they spend the bulk of their day working within their aptitudes. Although we have shifted away from a country that makes things to a country that does things, a fulfilled staff that excels and is valued still matters to the success of the organization.

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