Project Wonderful

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: Organization for Time Management

I’ve been an FO/RFD working on three very different campaigns three years in a row to unseat three straight Republicans. The campaign I’m on now is the most thorough I’ve worked on and the most important I’ve worked on, and CampaignSick makes sense of every single thing I am doing on this race and why.

Here’s a question I hope everyone can help me out with: when going about day to day tasks, how do you manage your time in the most efficient way? What time management skills do you incorporate?

When we talk about time management, we're really talking about self management. For me that means managing my stress so that I can put all of myself into the task at hand. With that in mind, these are some organizational tips that have worked for me.

1) Turn off your cell phone.You can get to a point where everything feels like a emergency, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once in a while, when it comes to a key strategy meeting, or sitting down to finally write a budget, commit to turning off phones, maybe even going off site, and being fully present. When you take a step back, way fewer things need an immediate response than seem to in the moment.

2) Prioritize being on time and keeping appointments. When you do things like constantly reschedule one on ones with your staff, or push back less than urgent meetings with your candidate, it creates a culture of chaos and makes people feel like like you don't value their time. Nothing unimportant should be on your calendar in the first place, and if you put it off now it will still be looming later. Things come up, and sometimes a shift is unavoidable, but the best way to make sure that your tasks are getting done is to meet them head on rather than consistently delay them for other priorities.

3) Keep a white board to do list. Paper to do lists get messy quickly and eventually you have to flip back 15 pages to make sure you got everything. A white board can sit on your desk as a visual reminder of what's on your plate both short and long term. At the beginning of the day (or better yet, the day before) look at what tasks absolutely must get done before you leave. When a new task arises in the middle of an old one, write it down and keep working. This can keep a task from distracting you while finish what you were doing without letting things fall off your plate. When you finish one task, scan your list for the next priority.

4) Create a daily checklist. Different from a fluctuating to do list, these are the things you need to do daily when you first come in or before you walk out the door. For a Campaign Manager on a small campaign this might include: Do you have the candidate's schedule set for the next day? Do you know who is staffing her? Is her car stocked with supplies? Have you gotten numbers from your field director? I also have a similar checklist for events so that in the rush to prepare for a big surrogate, little details don't get ignored.

5) Use a Google Calendar. (Or Outlook). Unlike a physical calendar it can't get lost, you can invite others to meetings, and you almost always have access to it.

6) Delegate. Tasks fall into three categories: those that must be done by you, those that you need to approve but that could be executed by someone else, and those that could be completed by someone else entirely. The things that fall into the first category should be your first priority.

You should consider empowering people you manage to do activities that fall into the second category. It may be difficult to part with these tasks, but remember that in delegating you're training the managers of tomorrow. You're also making smart use of your time by not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sometimes its more important to get a press release out there than to have it worded exactly as you would have worded it.

There is no reason you should be doing things that fall into the third category. If an organizer spends two hours every day doing data entry, it makes sense to spend an hour a week recruiting data entry volunteers instead. Campaign volunteers are invaluable in this capacity because they multiply your person power exponentially so take advantage of that and organize your way out of the job!

7) Do the most difficult tasks first. This is really about personal management, so if you're the type like me to let a stressful project loom over your day, why not get it out of the way?

8) Acknowledge requests as they come through. Make people feel valued by letting them know that you hear what they need and will get back to them by ____ day. Then set yourself a calendar appointment or put it on your white board.

9) Have a go-to activity for your downtime. Okay, "downtime" might be a little bit of a misnomer. I'm talking about those 10 minute segments between meetings when there's not enough time to start a new project but you don't want to just sit on your hands. I'm also talking about an activity for when you're so overwhelmed with to dos that you don't know where to start. For an organizer or finance assistant this might be just picking up the phone and making some calls. The activity should be something that's always needed and is a great (and kind of mindless) way to instantly feel productive. For a more senior position this might be working on part of your GOTV training, crafting a fundraising email, or checking in on key stakeholders who fall off the radar but occasionally need a little love.

10) Work smarter, not longer. Nothing sucks your motivation like sitting behind a computer staring ahead because you are "supposed" to be in the office. The same task that you're doing at midnight could likely be accomplished more efficiently at 10 am. Get some sleep! Get some exercise! Self-care is not selfish care. It is crucial to time management because it allows you to be fully present and your best self when you are working.

I hope that helps!

Campaign Love and Mine,


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