“I’m too busy.”

“I’m just trying to keep up.”

“My to do list is overwhelming.”

We rarely do our best work under these circumstances, moving reactively from task to task, and yet these are such common statements from those of us who work in advancement.

It’s easy to see how we can get stuck in this pattern, but what’s often harder is recognizing the pattern and the toll it takes on us and our work — and finding a way beyond it.

While we each face different circumstances in our work, I’ve seen time and again one thing that we all have in common: that a more proactive approach to our work not only creates better results, it also helps us manage our own feelings of “busy” and regain control over our own work patterns.

What would this look like, feeling less at the mercy of whatever comes into your inbox? Thinking through strategy and approach in advance? I’m willing to bet it will lead to better results. More time and space for collaboration. Stronger strategies that have been fully thought through.

Here are a few proactive planning strategies. Can you benefit from any of these approaches?

  • Calendar block: Put holds on your calendar for your most common tasks like prospect outreach, donor/partnership follow up, donor strategy, catching up on email, or editing/writing. By honoring those holds, you both dedicate the time you need to proactive work, but you also know that you’ve set time aside for other tasks — so you don’t have to react the second they come through.
  • Create a plan: Do you have a donor event or donor visits coming up? Take time now to write down how you’ll manage the follow up. Maybe you’re divvying up the RSVP list for follow up and meeting requests. Draft your outreach language now, before it’s urgent. Do it during your calendar block for writing! Whatever you’re planning for, by outlining related activities in advance, you’ll have time to sit with your plan and tweak it as needed before it’s implemented — creating a better strategy.
  • Identify challenges: Look ahead at your calendar and identify any roadblocks that may be coming up. Maybe you have a few days in a row full of internal meetings, but you know you need to get out and spend time with donors. Make a point of sending several meeting requests before the meeting-heavy days so you know you’re still booking visits and will be able to move easily back into donor engagement after your internal-focused days.

It can be easy to fall into the pattern of taking things as they come at you, and there are times when this approach makes sense. But most often, taking control of our work by proactively planning for and managing it will make us far more effective.

And every bit as important: It will make us feel more in control of things too. And I don’t know anyone who couldn’t benefit from that!

If you’d like a coach to support you in developing a more proactive approach to your work this fall, please reach out! Our coaches at KDD Philanthropy are here to help!

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