If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “stretched too thin,” I’d be neck-deep in nickels. Nonprofit or not, many staff feel the strain of too much to do and not enough time to do it. One executive director recently phrased the question this way:
How do we prioritize our work and then be willing to live with it?
Setting priorities, in part, means choosing what’s not going to get done. Everything can’t be a priority. Most things can’t be a priority. Only the few, essential, mission-critical things are priorities. The rest…well…I can hear it now.
“52 of my 57 tasks ARE mission-critical! It all MUST be done and done soon!”
Assuming the criteria of what is and is not mission-critical is sound, you’re left with two choices: delegate or delete. Both involve letting go.
Delegation means being willing to let go of control and trusting someone else to put their stamp on the result. However, there may be more options here than you first imagine. We may delegate to someone within our organization or work collaboratively with another organization. We may hire out certain tasks. We may be able to divide a task and only attend to the critical aspect of it. What other options can you think of?
Deleting critical tasks may mean facing the fact that capacity is truly being exceeded and then letting go of that which makes the task critical (e.g., paring programs or services). This is an extreme measure to be sure.
These are not easy decisions. The important ones rarely are. Yet, we must maintain the capacity to deliver on our commitments, and recognize that every “yes” that takes us beyond our capacity diminishes the quality of our programs and the integrity of our organization.
If you find yourself wresting on this particular mat, please contact ONEplace. We’ll work with you to sort things out.