Transcript Episode 150 – The New Year’s Resolution that Changed My Work Life on The Prosperous Nonprofit
Stephanie Skryzowski: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Prosperous Nonprofit, the podcast for leaders who are building financially sustainable and impactful nonprofits and changing the world. I’m Stephanie Skrzewski, a chief financial officer and founder and CEO of 100 Degrees Consulting. My personal mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income.
On this show, we talk to people who are leading the nonprofit sector in new, innovative, disruptive, and entrepreneurial ways, creating organizations that fuel their lives, their hearts, and their communities. Let’s dive in.
Hello. Welcome back to the prosperous nonprofits. You know me, your host, Stephanie Skrzewski, and I am coming to you today from my office at the very beginning of a 20 [00:01:00] meeting week. Yes, I have 20 meetings scheduled this week. So that basically means I am going to be staring at zoom for roughly 20 hours all week long.
And I am making time out of my clearly very busy schedule this week to talk to you about my 20 meeting week. And I wanted to give you, I thought about four different tips for if your schedule feels like this, or if it is like this, if it is literally booked beginning to end every single day. And I wanted to just share with you four tips and, you know, looking at my calendar this week, it made me think about this.
I’m like, I was going to do just a quick Instagram post, but then I thought about, you know what? There’s a lot I want to say here. And so I decided to make it a podcast. So, right now, it’s almost 8 p. m., and I just got done with the kid dinner and dance class and bedtime routine, [00:02:00] and I decided that this podcast episode really could not wait.
So, here we are. So, I am giving you four tips today to really help you if you have a super busy schedule. So, my number one tip. Is don’t do this, right? Do not schedule yourself with 20 meetings in one week. Don’t do it right now. That is easier said than done because in many situations it’s unavoidable.
There are some things where it’s a board meeting and maybe there’s a finance committee meeting and a development committee meeting and they’re all the same week and there’s not a whole lot of control you have around those. And I get that, but like this should not. And I can’t emphasize this enough. Now, this is not the norm for me, honestly.
It used to be, and I’m going to talk about that in a second. It used to be the norm for me, but it’s really not and hasn’t been for quite some time. But I’m in a season [00:03:00] right now, I’m recording this actually in November, and I just came off of about six weeks of going to conferences and meeting a lot of new people.
And so I was at. Four different conferences over the course of these six weeks meeting, dozens and dozens of new people and I really made it an intention of mine to follow up on all of these meetings, or sorry, on all of the people that I met. And so we exchanged contact information or we connected on LinkedIn and then I followed up with an email and said, Hey, let’s continue our conversation.
Um, you know, via Zoom. And so I know that this 20 meeting week is not normal. It’s a season. This is not part of my, my everyday. The other thing I will say is that I only take meetings on certain days of the week. Right now it’s three days a week. And so those. 20 meetings are packed into three days a week.
That’s still like not super efficient, right? And that means on those three days, I’m getting literally nothing else [00:04:00] done, but I only am having meetings on three days a week. Now, I want to share with you a couple of years ago, the new year’s resolution that changed my life. And that New Year’s resolution that changed my life was regaining control of my calendar.
And it was then that I was working with a business coach who specialized in operations and efficiencies. And I was like, Oh, I’m just so overwhelmed. I can never find any space to think. I’m just like always going from one meeting to the next. And we dug deeper into Why? Like, what are the actual causes of this?
Well, I had my calendar link, you know, you give a link to somebody to just find a time and schedule with you, just wide open from 9 a. m. Monday until 5 p. m. Friday. And so of course, meetings were popping up on every which, every hour, but then maybe there’d be 30 minutes in between. And then. Yeah. It was just chaos.
So I never had any block of time where I could just think or get into [00:05:00] deep work, whether it’s for my business or for my clients. And so, um, it was at the beginning of the year, I specifically remember I was like, well, maybe I’ll like start next month. She’s like, why don’t you just start now? I said, okay.
So I changed my calendar link, like scheduling preferences and limited it to just two or three days. And It literally changed my life. I didn’t have meetings like every single day beginning to end with only, you know, 30 minutes or an hour in between, which as we all know, it is impossible to be a visionary in 30 minute chunks throughout your day, right?
Like we just can’t do that deep work. And so that New Year’s resolution changed my life. And I haven’t really had those crazy, busy meeting filled weeks since then until now. And again, I’m still doing it intentionally. It’s three days of back to back meetings. It’s not five days of bunch of random sporadic meetings, but still.
So when I’m talking to you about like managing your calendar, managing your [00:06:00] time. And how not to have 20 meetings in a week, my first piece of advice is don’t, right? Just set your boundaries, set your parameters so that you simply can’t, right? Use your software to help work for you and help be your boundaries for you, right?
So you don’t have to say, Oh, uh, yeah, I don’t really have meetings on Fridays. Your calendar does the work for you, right? So the first piece of advice is. Don’t do this. The second piece of advice is make sure that every single meeting has an agenda and a need. So at the beginning of this week, I went through and looked at all of the meetings on my calendar and I was able to get rid of two of them.
I mean, that’s not, you know, that’s not a huge percentage, but it’s 10%. I was able to get rid of two meetings by just saying, like, do I need to be there? And is there an agenda for this meeting? Um, and I think that we all have those recurring meetings that are just on our calendar. Um, if you’re [00:07:00] a nonprofit consultant, maybe you have like this recurring weekly meeting on your calendar with one of your clients.
Or if you’re a nonprofit, maybe you have a recurring weekly meeting on your calendar with your board chair, right? But like you only have an agenda, maybe a third of the time and the other times you’re just like, Hey, so what’s up, do you have anything new to talk about this week? No. And you know, then you maybe you find something to talk about, but it’s really not the highest and best use of your time.
Um, So make sure you have an agenda and there’s actually a need for you to be there. Like I said, by thinking critically at my meetings for the week, I was able to say, okay, these two meetings, my presence is not needed. I am here as an observer and as a, maybe I’ll chime in. Every 15 minutes. That is not the best way to spend an hour of my time.
Right. So make sure there’s an agenda and a need. Number three, batch your work and batch your meetings. So, like I said, this was really a game [00:08:00] changer for me when I started batching my meetings on just. two to three days a week. I was then able to free up those other either three or two days for deep work, deep thinking, big projects, and just like white space in order to get stuff done and to think right.
Our job as a leader is largely to think that is how we’re coming up with new ideas. That is how we’re finding solutions to problems. It is by having that white space to think. And so what I do now is I batch my work and I batch my meetings. So my meetings are on certain days and Now, I know some people don’t like having meetings back to back and I completely understand that, right?
We need water. We need a fresh cup of tea or coffee. We need to use the bathroom. We need, you know, maybe to answer the door or go get the mail or whatever, right? We need a little time in between. I usually try to batch my meetings so they are back to back to back. And then I have bigger chunks of free time, right?
So I would rather have four meetings in a row. [00:09:00] for four hours and then have the next four hours for free rather than having like a meeting and then an hour free and then another meeting and then an hour free. Because for me, I find it harder to get into meaningful work in an hour. Like, yeah, I can check my emails and I can answer Slack messages and things, but I can’t really go deep if I only have an hour.
And so I like to batch my work and then batch my meetings. So if you’re not doing that, Um, because you don’t think it’s possible, I would encourage you to rethink that because I thought the same thing. I was like, there’s no way. What if a client wants to have a meeting on a Friday? Well, this is what happens.
If somebody, anybody, right, wants to have a meeting on a Friday, and I don’t take meetings on Fridays. Fridays are my thinking and deep work day. So if somebody wants to have a meeting on a Friday, I will first say, I’m not available on Friday, but I can meet on Monday at 10 a. m. Does that work for you? 99. 9 percent of the time it does, [00:10:00] literally 99.
9 percent of the time it’s like, Oh sure, you can’t meet on Friday at 1pm. Yeah. Let’s meet on Monday at 10. Perfect. So 99. 9 percent of the time it works and nobody’s asking questions like, what are you doing on Friday? Why can’t you meet with me? Nobody’s asking that. I say I’m unavailable and I suggest an alternative and it almost always works and I’m not like not hiding anything.
I’m truly, I’m not available because I have set that side, that time aside for. Um, projects for deep work, for thinking, for strategizing, for planning, for whatever it might be. Right? I’m still working. I’m not available for meetings. And so I would encourage you to try it out. Try it just once to first batch your time so that maybe you’re only taking meetings on certain days.
You’re only doing certain activities. I know for me, meetings are a big thing. Maybe you have a different sort of like time suck in your organization. How can you batch that work? And then if somebody asks. To go outside of your new like rules. [00:11:00] Simply say, I’m not available during that time. Could we do X instead And just see what happens.
I would love to hear if y’all do this, will you message me? Will tell me. , we tell if you do it and it works ’cause I’m sure that it will.
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Okay. So number three, the last thing that really helps me get through these are very, very busy weeks is to prepare in advance for. So I knew that this coming week was going to be a busy one. And so on Sunday evening, I took a look at my calendar and looked at every single meeting and that’s when I decided to excuse myself from two of them because I was not needed.
And that is also when I did a couple things. I created my to do list for the week. So I looked at each of those meetings and thought about, okay. First of all, what do I need to prepare in advance for these meetings? Largely, there were only a couple meetings that I really needed to spend some time preparing.
And so I made sure that I had a chunk of time this morning to get that done. And then after I prepared for the meetings, I then made a list of everything else that I had to get done for the week. Now, How many [00:13:00] times have you done this? You have made a to do list for the week that like far exceeds the number of hours that you actually have in the week to accomplish the to do list, right?
I am like almost certain that we have all done this, right? We have four hours in a day, for example, and we write a list of like 25 things that we need to do. Like just totally, totally impossible. And so what I do is I adjust my to do list. So I use ClickUp as our project management software and I look at Everything that I have to do with a deadline of this week.
And I see if I can, can I move things around? Cause some things are like. Sort of arbitrary deadlines, right? They’re internal deadlines that I’ve set that has some flexibility and so I shift things around and I shave my to do list down to only what I actually must get done, right? Because what doesn’t feel good is having a day of eight meetings back to back to back and then having a to do list of 30 things long in front of you.[00:14:00]
Especially when in reality, you don’t actually need to get them all done. Right. And so I shaved that list down to like the top five things that actually must be done that week because there’s a deadline or something else. So I’m preparing in advance by, you know, getting meetings off my calendar, then preparing for the actual meetings that are on the calendar.
Then it creating my additional to do list again of only the bare essentials so that I am not overwhelmed by this like daunting list of things that. actually don’t really need to get done. And then finally, I plan my life, right? So what I did this week, I was like, okay, I know that Monday is going to be a very busy day.
I know that Thursday is going to be a very busy day because I have back to back meetings all day long. Plus kid activities in the evenings. And so what are my meals going to look like on those days? So I’m not a huge, like meal prep and advanced person because I don’t like eating leftovers. Can anyone else feel me on that?
I’m like not a big leftover fan. So I [00:15:00] don’t like prepping food on Sunday that I then have to eat for the rest of the week. Like that is not appealing to me. In the least, shout out to my friends who are meal preppers. I, yeah, I admire you, but it’s just not my thing. So anyway, but what I did do is I knew I wanted to have grilled chicken on Monday night.
So I grilled chicken on Sunday night and then I had, I had dinner ready for me Monday. I know what I’m going to make on Thursday for dinner that is going to serve me and my family and myself. schedule well and so it’s that I look at the combination of the busy work schedule as well as what is in my personal life to make sure that I am as well taken care of as I can possibly be.
I know some people during weeks like this will hire or buy like the sort of pre made healthy meals that you can get from like a meal prep service. I think that’s a fantastic idea as well. We’ve tried some around here that I haven’t really. Loved. So we haven’t bought them again. But if I found, if I found [00:16:00] a service that I really liked the food, I would probably try this again as well.
So anyway, that is what I do when I have a week like this ahead of me. So I just want to recap for you, if you are staring down the barrel of. A back to back to back meeting week. I just want to encourage you, first of all, that, well, you’re not alone. That probably doesn’t help very much, but it always is nice to know that you’re not alone in something.
But number two, there is something you can do. And I will tell you, it has felt very unattainable, like it feels like, well, there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to suck it up. But there are some things you can do. So I’m just going to recap for you. Number one, don’t do it. Just don’t do it. Right?
Set the boundaries. Set the boundaries yourself and enforce them because really only you can actually enforce your own boundaries. So don’t do this. Think about how you can spread things out. I’m like, do I need to be taking all of these follow up calls from these conferences this week? No. [00:17:00] Do I want to and am I willing to kind of make the, you know, make the sacrifice?
Yes, I am. And so, yeah, my first piece of advice is don’t do this. My second piece of advice is make sure that there is an agenda for every single meeting and a need for your presence, a need for you to be there. Right? Like I said, I found two meetings this week that I do not need to be present for. I was only there as an observer, um, and I just don’t need to be present, and so I politely excused myself.
So, number two, make sure you have an agenda and a need. Number three, batch your work and meetings. I am giving you permission to. Put your meetings on certain days of the week and not others, right? Or maybe it’s every, um, in the mornings you have meetings and the afternoons are open, right? You can think about this in any way that makes sense for you.
I know, like another example of this, I’m trying to recap here, but now I’m giving you more ideas. I work with a lot of organizations in East Africa. And [00:18:00] so, I need to meet with them in the morning because of the time difference, right? They’re 7, 8, 9 hours ahead of me. Um, and so, I usually hold my mornings and sometimes even as early as 7, 7.
30 a. m. Eastern time, um, so that I can meet with the, those teams, um, in East Africa. And I know many of my colleagues that work at these organizations, they do the same thing. They hold all of their, like, You know, East Africa meetings in the morning, and then, um, they have all of their U. S. only meetings or work or whatever in the afternoons, and so they batch their time accordingly as well.
So anyway, batching work and batching your meetings, giving yourself big chunks of open space to actually do work, get things done, think big, think strategically, go deep. deep in your work and then, um, having your meetings. And again, if your preference is back to back or leaving yourself 15 minutes or 30 minutes in between, that’s up to you.
But I strongly encourage and recommend big chunks of [00:19:00] time as much as you can without any meetings. And finally, the last piece of advice when you are Staring at a very, very packed calendar is to prepare in advance for this wild and crazy schedule. And so making sure that you have prepared for the meetings in advance, making sure that you’ve created your very scaled down, pared down to do list in advance, and then doing what you can do for your home life too, whether it’s.
It’s meal prepping, or whether it’s making sure you’ve got those prepared meals on hand, or whether it’s delegating that to someone else in your family, or whether it’s saying, hey, Monday night, we’re ordering pizza, and that’s the plan, now we don’t have to talk about it and think about, oh, what in the world are we going to do on Monday night for dinner?
We’re getting pizza. Right? So, thinking about that as well. All right, that’s what I have for you today. I, I figured this could not be an Instagram story. It was just a little bit too [00:20:00] long and here we are at almost 20 minutes. So I was right. So I hope you enjoyed this. I hope you are not looking at a week of 20 plus meetings, but if you are, I hope you grabbed a little tidbit of information that you can pull and apply into your daily life.
So it. doesn’t feel overwhelming. Okay friends, thank you so much for listening to another episode of the prosperous nonprofit. And I hope everything you learned here today will help you become a more prosperous leader and a more prosperous organization. I will see you next. Next time. Thanks everybody.
Before you go, I just want to thank you for being here to access our show notes and bonus content. Visit 100degreespodcast. com that’s 100degreespodcast. com and I’ll see you next time.