Time the Avenger

After presenting Challenging Conversations in a Changing Philanthropic Landscape with Andrea McManus (search for either of our last names to find the conference handout here), I had every intention of writing a blog post about the inspiring AFP International Conference in Baltimore. I was going to share, highlight, and applaud!

Then my client work, volunteer commitments, family, and out-of-town guests took precedence, eating away at my good intentions…and before I knew it, more than a month had flown by. It got me thinking: if someone like me, who prides herself on being a strong time manager, can get thrown off track from time to time, I’m probably not the only one.

So I decided to refresh myself, then share with you, my Top 10 Time Management Tips plus 4 Productivity Apps. These essential tools got me back on track and I’m confident they will do the same for you – whether it’s spending more time with major donors and major donor prospects or other key priorities. Here’s how:

  1. Prioritize ruthlessly.
  2. Don’t fall victim to the “tyranny of the urgent” and lose focus.
  3. Write in the morning. This is when your brain is freshest and it will be easier to check that report, memo, letter or e-mail off your list. If you wait until later in the day, there will be inevitable distractions and it will be harder to concentrate (see #2).
  4. Brutally evaluate your schedule, reducing the number of meetings you attend. Are you showing up to your standing meetings out of habit? Do you need to be at every single one of these meetings, every week?
  5. When you do have to attend the meeting, assess beforehand whether you need to be there the whole time. Making an appearance or sitting in on the relevant section are ways to buy back countless hours of your precious time.
  6. Carve out at least two hours each week for major gift fundraising activities. For example, book two one-hour morning time slots on your calendar every week (e.g. Tuesday and Thursday from 9 – 10). NOTE: the following is one of my favorite articles because it spells out the difference between being busy and being productive:
  7. Then, do the same for/with your CEO, board members and other key stakeholders.
  8. Return calls to your talkative donors, board members, etc. at 9:45, 2:45, etc. Let them know that you have a commitment in 15 minutes, and you wanted to make sure you returned their important call ASAP. Like #2, this will buy back significant time.
  9. Time box your activities. For more information about time boxing, read item 5 @
  10. Prioritize reading e-mails from key donors, your boss, and direct reports, and do so only at the beginning and end of your day. The new term for the urge to immediately respond to e-mails is workplace telepressure. Here’s an interesting recent article about how this behavior is unproductive and can be hazardous to your health:

And here are the four productivity apps from the recent Inc. Magazine issue (

Icukoo Charity Alarm Clock – create and edit alarms. Bonus: if you ignore them, the nonprofit of your choice will benefit!
Workflow – tasks are turned into buttons for your phone’s homescreen, turning tedious activities into one-touch operations.
IFTTT (If This, Then That) – automates smartphone apps using “recipes”.
Timeful – sends timely reminders about doing things you might otherwise forget or ignore, such as stretching if you’ve been at the computer too long, going to the gym, etc.

So: are you still reading or did you run out of time? ☺

Happy Time Management – and may you, your major donors and your organization benefit from your new found time!


Posted on May 19, 2015 in Maven

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Martha Schumacher

About the Author

Martha H. Schumacher, ACFRE, CFRE, MInstF(AdvDip), is President of Hazen Inc. Hazen partners with nonprofits to provide effective fundraising solutions, with a special emphasis on major gifts and capital campaigns. From time to time, she will share her thoughts on issues that impact mega, principal and major gifts at your organization. Please send us your major gifts thoughts, challenges, questions or insights to @HazenInc or

Response (1)

  1. Hang Beeghly
    February 5, 2016 at 2:04 am · Reply

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

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