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“I resolve to do more (fill in the blank)…… in the coming year.”

Congratulations! But what are going to do less of?

A simple and powerful tool for any manager, Do, Delegate, Discard is especially helpful to Executive Directors who are the lynchpin between the Board of Directors and the staff. It makes you focus on making the most of your time, and helps you make best use of the talent around you.

First, write down everything you are responsible for. Everything. That includes bringing in office snacks, managing the $5000 library fund donor and organizing the annual gala. Making thank you calls to major donors, reviewing the copier contract, meeting board members for coffee and writing the copy for the eight page monthly newsletter. Writing the development and communications plan, keeping the FAQs up-to-date, hiring, evaluating and firing staff and developing the employee handbook. Whatever it is, write it down.

Now, make three columns next to the list: Do, Delegate, Discard.

For each item on the list, decide if it’s something ONLY YOU CAN DO, something you can DELEGATE TO SOMEONE ELSE, or something that doesn’t have to be done, i.e., DISCARD.

Caution! Even if you think that only you can do it right, that doesn’t mean that only you can do it. This is where perfectionists stumble. Consider – an Executive Director earning $80,000 a year (plus benefits), and ostensibly working 40 hours per week (ha), is earning $48/hour. Does it really make sense for you to be the author of every article for the newsletter or to maintain the FAQs? Or should you be focusing on staff development, major donors and board interactions? If you honestly believe that only you can do the job, then mark the DO column. These items should be where your organization will derive the greatest benefit from your time.

Control freaks stumble when they contemplate handing off to a subordinate.  Delegating is scary, but successful delegation ultimately pays off. Staff get the chance to shine and the satisfaction of being responsible for jobs well done. So into the DELEGATE column put reviewing the copier contract, keeping FAQs up-to-date, managing and writing the newsletter, reviewing lower level staff, drafting new handbook pages. It may mean time to train your staff, but developing your staff is ultimately what will make you – and your organization – even more productive.

Superwomen and Supermen stumble on DISCARD. There is a subconscious fear that you will be thought less of if you don’t do every. single. thing. But DISCARD may be the most powerful action you can take. It forces you to stop and think about why a job is done at all.  Maybe the 8 page monthly newsletter should drop to 4 pages, or bimonthly, or not even exist. What purpose does it serve; would something else serve that purpose even better? Should stewarding the library fund donor be woven into the general donor stewardship program? Are all the board reports needed? Can you move to consent agendas? Should you drop the gala that nets $20,000 but has hidden labor costs of $50,000?

Deceptively simple, Do, Delegate, Discard is a powerful tool for managing your time, and empowering your staff. It’s a great way to begin the new year, and make room for all those NEW resolutions.