Are you feeling just a little overwhelmed performing your own accounting and tax services for your nonprofit?
A Forbes survey found that 14% of nearly 3,000 people surveyed worldwide feel chronically overwhelmed. If you are, you’re not alone. Feeling overwhelmed is common today.
Oh, and by the way – the age bracket feeling the most overwhelm? Those 41-50 years old, or roughly, the age bracket for most senior nonprofit financial management types.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re guessing you went into nonprofit financial management because you love finance, accounting, and the mission-driven culture of a nonprofit organization. You can rekindle that passion for your work again and manage that feeling of overwhelm with a few simple steps.
The Myth of Multi-Tasking
In the book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, authors Jeff and J.J. Sutherland provide insight into why many people feel overwhelmed. They are trying to multi-task, thinking it boosts productivity. Their studies indicate the opposite.
A chart on page 91 provides statistics that indicate that as one’s attention is divided, productivity decreases. Working on two projects at once means a 20% loss in productivity due to switching gears; three projects at once, and you lose about 40% due to context switching. Context switching leads to feeling overwhelmed because the mind is never at rest, confident it can finish a project. It’s always jumping to the next open action item – which in turn makes you jumpy!
Accounting and tax service for nonprofit providers and nonprofit financial management professionals aren’t immune to this lost productivity. They may actually be at greater risk for lost productivity due to context switching due to the amount of concentration required to process accounting and financial data.
In addition to the focus needed to do your job, something is always clamoring for your attention. Messenger apps, emails, phone calls, colleagues dropping by your office – it’s a never-ending barrage of items competing for your attention.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Multi-tasking doesn’t work. It’s a lie. So why do we buy into it?
We think it should work because, after all, if you’re busy working on seven tasks, that’s seven projects underway. However, time and time again, studies demonstrate that it is better to have one open task, complete it, then turn your attention to the next one.
Commit to single-tasking rather than multi-tasking. Turn off the television or music while you work. Shut down the instant messenger apps and sounds that ping and bong when emails arrive. Focus on one thing at a time.
Build a Set of Rules
Do you have an open-door policy? That’s a useful and common management technique. However, it can lead to people interrupting you and breaking your concentration. It is helpful to build out a set of rules and guidelines for your team so they know when they can interrupt you.
Some managers choose to post ‘office hours’ or leave their door open as a signal to their staff that they may interrupt them. Another technique is to use a shared calendar such as Google Calendar or an Office calendar and post your office hours there while blocking out time for work requiring deep concentration. Experiment to find the method that works the best for you.
Yes, You Can Turn Off Your Phone
Nearly everyone carries a cell phone today. It makes it convenient to call someone for a quick answer, dial AAA when your car breaks down, or find your coworker after hours. It can quickly turn into an invisible umbilical cord connecting you to the office 24/7. Cut the cord. Tell your coworkers you plan to switch your phone off at night and follow through. Make the hours after 7 p.m. or whatever time you choose “off limits” so you get some downtime.
You Have Permission to Take Vacation, Weekends Off, and Holidays
Nonprofit accounting and tax professionals often work long hours right before tax season. That may be inevitable. At other times of the year, those extra hours may be unnecessary. Take a vacation, weekends off, and holidays.
Workaholics are lauded in American culture, but they also get sicker faster and burn out. Don’t be a statistic. Close the office door, turn off your phone, and head to the beach or the mountains so you give your mind and body a rest. You’ll be better off for it, as will your nonprofit organization if you return refreshed.
Beck & Company
Beck & Company is an independent certified accounting firm offering accounting and tax service for nonprofits, nonprofit financial management, auditing services and more. Since 1987, we have helped many nonprofits in the Washington D.C. area and along the Eastern seaboard with their accounting and financial management needs. We provide audit, tax, accounting, and consulting service that addresses all aspects of a small to mid-sized nonprofit organization’s business. Contact us or call 703-834-0776 x8001.