The move has happened. After a massive clean-out, my husband and I relocated and we’ve been in our new place about 10 days. I’d arranged for some time away from work to dedicate to unpacking and organizing, and I’m so glad I did. That time afforded me the luxury of being able to thoughtfully consider how to group items together so they are accessible and in places that make sense, which has kept me from feeling too overwhelmed with the tasks before me.
(I still have some work to do.)
For example, my office is going to be neater now because I have a closet somewhere else in the house to keep past calendars, notebooks and other things that I’ll only need occasionally for reference. These are the things that made my office bookshelf before look unbalanced and sloppy. Christmas dishes have a new place too that works better for the flow of the kitchen, which means they won’t be in the kitchen except for around the holidays.
As I’ve worked through this in my home and office, it’s given me good ideas about how some of these thoughts could be applied to nonprofits. Here’s how I fit this together in my head:
- Take time away to figure out what’s important. For your nonprofit, this might look like an annual planning retreat for staff and board members that takes place in a location that’s not your office. A change of scenery might be what your team needs to figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
- Keep assessing what’s mission critical. In my move, the most important thing at first was putting boxes in the right rooms to be unpacked. Then mission critical became unpacking the kitchen enough that we could eat and drink very basic things. Next came putting up shower rods, finding bath towels and putting sheets on beds. After that, my helpers and I took a step back to see what the next level of to-do’s would be.
- Put your most important things around you. We’ve had three winter storms in the past 10 days. I can’t wait until weather is warm enough for short sleeves. But, the reality is that we’re still a ways out from that. Summer clothes don’t need to be unpacked now. What I need most at the front of my closet is warm boots, scarves and a coat. So that’s what I have right where I can reach it. Can your nonprofit figure out what needs to be close at hand and what can be shelved temporarily? It might be that decorations for an annual event can be stored until next year, or a discussion about exploring new database software could be tabled until the next board meeting. What’s important to focus on now and what isn’t? Arrange your space (both mental space and physical space) to access what you need with ease.
- Inevitably, you’ll reorganize your space and you’ll still wonder why you kept some things. I did. I thought I got rid of everything we’d never need again, and I’ve still uncovered things that will wind up at Goodwill. After your next program review or board retreat, are there still things that can be phased out from your organization?
- Finally, simplify what’s on your plate. If you’re the executive director heading up a small nonprofit staff, your hand could be in every part of your organization. But, it may not need to be. Consider who is on board who can be trusted to help you with your most daunting tasks. Can a staff member take something off your plate? Would a board member be willing to step in to help you with something? Can you farm out some tasks to a consultant, independent contractor or intern? If you were to relieve yourself of something big, how else might you spend your time? Could you grow your organization in a new and needed direction with the time you’ve freed up for yourself? (Special shout-out to the people I delegated to in the past week. Not feeling pressured to unpack a whole house alone was wonderful!)
How are you and your team simplifying 2015? Share your successes and challenges with us.