The biggest obstacle to professional development

No surprise its time. The Meyer Foundation surveyed nearly 100 executive??directors and found that more than three-quarters (76%) of them felt time was more of an obstacle to professional development and personal well-being than money (21%) or??mindset (17%).

Now, I could be really inspiring here and tell you a story about how I manage my time really well and thats the key to my success. That would be a big load of garbage. Time management is something that I struggle with every day, all day. You might have noticed that we havent been posting regular blog posts for the last month. Why? Time.

Were constantly trying new things over here, and I have a million things on my to-do list that, honestly, will probably be on there forever. That makes regular time management a slippery little thing to wrangle. Like you, I have a ton of responsibility and over the years my job has changed dramatically. My job went from doing something that I knew how to do really well (design and art direction) to doing new things that I have to work hard to learn (sales, management, business stuff).

Currently, sales is my number one job and it takes me way more time and practicing to get good at that. Im spending all of my extra professional development time working on getting better at sales so we can grow and serve more groups that inspire positive change. Its tough work and let me tell you, Id much rather do something Im already good at like reviewing design, writing a blog post or even doing the books. But improving sales is going to be the key for our future success, so making time for it is my number one goal right now.

But I still have to do all of the other tasks essential to running this business, so Ive tried a few things to manage my time better. Ill start out with a few tactics and end with a couple of big ideas to keep in mind.

Tactics

1. Schedule email checking

I try to only check my email at set times during the day, about three times a day. I start out doing this for about a week and then I slide into my old 24/7 email checking habits. Now sounds like a great time to start doing this again.

2. Calendar blocking

Ive recently set up repeating blocks of time every morning for me to focus on sales. That means cold calls, LinkedIn intros and commenting on posts, marketing, and all of the other things Im working on. Some of them are long-term efforts and some are quick. Im still trying to figure out what works and Ill let you know when I do.

Right now I have three days worth of mornings per week blocked off just for sales. I also have time scheduled to meet with my staff individually every two weeks and time at the end of the week to prepare for the next. These three things are so vital to the health of the business I have to make sure they get on my calendar.

3. No more Facebook

Im on a Facebook sabbatical. Ill let you know this pans out. So far, so good. Ive been off of it for about a week and I dont feel like Im missing much. Actually, I feel way better.

4. LinkedIn group digests

Im in a ton of LinkedIn groups because I feel like I can learn a LOT from the people in the industries that we serve: nonprofit and higher ed. I scan the LinkedIn daily recaps and comment on the things I feel are important. This takes about 30 minutes a day and I do it while I eat lunch.

Two big ideas

1. Know your learning style and make time for it

Ive talked about this before. I know Im not a born salesperson, so Ive hired a coach (let me know if youre interested and Ill connect you to him). I know Im also a little rough around the edges and leading a team is a really tough job, so Ive been working with a coach for almost four years. I know I learn best by doing and learning in person, so its worth it to me to pay people to help me. Im going to learn way more faster, so its a better option than a self-guided course or reading a book.

2. Decide how much you want to know about whats happening

One of my biggest fears, besides the ocean, is being a micro-managing boss. No one wants that, but people do need some structure and rules. Im still working out how much I want or need (two very different things) to be involved in projects. Im busy selling and writing and networking and my staff is here creating great work. I still need to review and check in because at the end of the day the buck stops with me, but I dont need to be involved in every issue because its physically not possible. This will be something that well be working on for a while, Im sure.

To help you with your professional development, were going to start our own training series called: Cheaper than More Grad School: Nonprofit Web Management Training For nonprofit marketing, communications, tech and design folks

Trust me, it will be worth your time. More on that soon.

Let us know what is and isnt working with managing your own time.

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