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Are You Feeling Overwhelmed or Behind at Work? You Are Not Alone! (Part 2)

December 12, 2017

by Tracey Church, MLIS

Part one of "Are you Feeling Overwhelmed or Behind at Work" discussed learning how to prioritize and compartmentalize and appeared in the October 2017 issue of AFP eWire Canada.

tracey churchAt this year’s APRA International Conference in Anaheim (July 26-29), I presented a session called “Time Management: Getting a Grasp of Your Research, Project (and Personal) Time.” The 70 attendees completed a survey at the session about their own fundraising shops and their workload in regard to their time and some of their overall concerns. Two questions asked were: 

  • “Do you feel overwhelmed or behind at work?” 88% of the respondents answered “yes.”
  • “Do you take a full lunch break – away from your desk?” 80% responded “no,” of which 54% responded that this was from pressure from others or because they were behind and wanted to use the time.

Having worked in research for over 25 years, and the last 15 in fundraising, this idea of always being "behind" is often caused by understaffing or a prior research lapse in the organization. However, since we can’t solve all of the personnel concerns in one sitting, here are some time and project management tips that may make your work load, and your day, a bit more manageable.

Project Management 

  • You have prioritized you research queue, plotted out your work calendar and learned to compartmentalize your work – what happens when the next big project, or campaign, comes along?
  • You can’t do it all yourself. Projects and campaigns are teamwork and the team must determine: the scope of the project; the time allotted; and the resources (human resources too) that are required to complete the project.
  • Projects are divided into tasks (the breakdown) and who is responsible for each task.
  • Some teams like to use a Gantt Chart, also known as a work-back schedule. These carefully plot out (using different colour blocks in an Excel worksheet) the project by month, the project tasks, and who is responsible for the completion of each task. It’s a timeline, so it is obvious what tasks need to be completed (and by whom) before the next task can be started.
  • Scrum, or Power Project Planning, is one way to “power through” a project. Scrum meetings are most effective off-site so there are no in-office distractions. In the software industry, these are called “sprint planning meetings” as they were initially created to handle back-logs. The team leader (the ScrumMaster, I did mention this was created in the software industry!) outlines the priorities. The “sprint” goals for the day are short and sweet. The team brainstorms activities needed to complete the goals. Here is the best part: the “to do” activities are added to the list, but how an activity is completed is up to the person who takes on the activity. They are trusted to do their job. This allows professionals to complete their assigned activities without micro-management, and they can celebrate as a team when the spring goals are completed.


  • Of course, there has to be an aspect of self-management when talking about time and project management. Zdravko Cvijetic wrote an article entitled “13 Things you Should Give Up To Be Successful” (Medium, April 27, 2017). The idea of “giving up” habits can be one of the most difficult concepts to imagine, but will help in regards to time and project management, and freeing up some of your time to get tasks completed – and having a life too!
  • Give up a short-term mindset. Successful people set long-term goals, but use small steps to get there—it’s very similar to project management. The idea is to focus on “improving yourself” one percent a day. You can’t do it all at once, but keep moving forward.
  • Give up playing small. Don’t be afraid to voice your ideas and live up to your true potential. This is especially true in campaign planning. If you have a good idea, bring it forward at the onset of the campaign. Don’t wait until it’s too late and can’t be implemented.
  • Give up excuses. Cvijetic says, “You are responsible for your own life – own it – and you will be in charge of what happens next.” That’s true on both a personal and team level. How many times has a development team waited for the Case for Support to be finished before they start cultivating prospects? The Case may never be completed. What time has been lost?
  • Give up on believing in the “Magic Bullet”. Focus on what you can do in the day ahead to get your work accomplished. From a prospect researcher’s and development officer’s perspective, be realistic as to how many $1 million-plus donors are out there!
  • Give up being a perfectionist. This is a hard one, especially for a consultant (where clients forget that we are human too). One attendee in my session said that one of her directors told her something years ago that stuck with her and was extremely helpful. She said, “Perfectionism is another word for Procrastination”. Looking for that one more perfect item to put in a profile before making the call may not exist. Forward the good work you have completed to continue the flow of the qualification and solicitation processes.
  • Give up your dependency on social media, the internet and being plugged in—an idea that really works when you need to get the job done! Turn off that little “email alert” in the bottom right hand corner of your computer screen, and you won’t be tempted to check your email every 20 seconds. When you are using the internet for your work, which researchers do all the time, are you distracted by the pop-ups advertising vacation destinations? Is your compulsive browsing related at all to your goals or peace of mind?
  • There are many other things that Cvijetic recommends giving up, but as you can see from the few mentioned, all are effective in managing your time and state-of-mind.

 Overall Awareness

  • While you can’t change everything with regards to time, project, and self-management all at once, you can try introducing something today that will help. Step-by-step and you will get there.
  • It could be that your senior management team doesn’t even know that you are stressed; why you can’t get your projects completed; or why there is high staff turnover. They need to know that there is a time crunch and they can be part of the process of making the workplace more effective.
  • This awareness of time, and time management, will help your team become more successful and more satisfied in the process.


Tracey Church, MLIS successfully manages her own business, teaches part-time at Western University, is on the APRA International board and AFP Golden Horseshoe Chapter board, and was editor and contributor to Canada's first book on prospect research; all while maintaining a marriage with two children and participating in many  leisure activities. She hopes sharing some of these time and project management tips will help others in their busy lives! 


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