September is a hectic month for nonprofits (although, seriously, what month is NOT hectic for nonprofits?). It’s that awkward month when summer fundraisers are drawing to a close and preparations for year-end campaigns are in full swing. For busy fundraisers, it’s easy to get burned out and distracted when you’re trying to juggle projects at the office. Boost your productivity by stepping away from your desk for a minute, resting your brain, and trying these ways to re-focus on the job:
1. Get away from your computer
A change of scenery can be good for an overworked brain — it breaks up your routine and gives your mind a rest. It’s also good for those of us who work at computers all day! Getting away from your screen gives your eyes a chance to take a break and can reduce the risk of eye strain and headaches.
2. Have a snack and a glass of water
If you notice yourself crashing in the late afternoon, low blood sugar or dehydration may be the culprit. Try having a small, healthy snack and a glass of water for a mid-afternoon boost. This is especially important if you’re the kind of fundraiser who’s so busy they forget to eat lunch or who try to exist on cups of coffee and vending-machine goodies. I know you’re out there!
3. Look up some cute animals
Looking at pictures of cute animals has been proven to boost focus and concentration. If you find your mind wandering, take a few minutes to look at some extra adorable critters. Some good places to get your fix include this super-cute twitter account and this site.
6. Put down your phone
It’s easy be unfocused with smartphones hanging around. Those little phones are portals to a whole world of digital distractions. If you catch yourself browsing reddit or playing games instead of working, make a conscious decision to put your phone out of sight. It’ll help you stay focused on the task at hand, not the latest Twitter drama or round of Candy Crush.
5. Make a To-Do List
Lists are an awesome tool for days that you’re extra scatterbrained. Making a list, prioritizing tasks, and checking them off one by one can help keep you on track and get things done. This strategy is especially efficient when you reward yourself with something after the list is done… maybe your reward can be a quick Facebook read-through on the phone that you have tucked away. Right?
6. Stretch It Out
Sitting in a chair at a desk all day isn’t that great for your body, especially when it’s combined with stress. Take a few seconds to relax and move around by getting out of your chair and stretching. Your lower back, shoulders, and neck are all areas that are strained by sitting all day, so focus on stretching out those areas in particular. Don’t know what to do? Here’s a good place to start.
7. Don’t Freak Out
Being unable to focus is one thing, but berating yourself for it will make things worse. If you catch yourself panicking about your inability to concentrate, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and try to relax. Getting worked up will only make focusing harder.
8. Do Something Else
Our brains need to take breaks. If we don’t take breaks on purpose, our brains will take breaks when we don’t want them. Curb your brain’s tendency to wander by giving it regular breaks and doing something you find relaxing. Doodle on your notes, make a cup of tea, e-mail a friend, write a thank-you card to a donor, organize your desk…. whatever will give your mind a rest.
9. Adjust Your Work Flow
If you find yourself getting stuck on a regular basis, see if you can adjust your work flow to accommodate your work style. If you’re sleepy in the mornings, leave your most complicated tasks for the afternoon. If you can’t focus after lunch, spend some time working on simpler tasks. Everyone has different peak productivity times. Arranging your workload around your personal work style will make you more efficient.
10. Stop Multitasking
You know how your Internet browser runs more slowly when you have a ton of tabs open? Your brain is the same way. Multitasking might seem like a way to be extra productive, but it just keeps you from devoting attention to important projects. Trying to do four things at once just causes stress and ensures exhaustion. It’s an inevitable part of a busy work life, but consciously choosing to multitask as little as possible will boost productivity, reduce stress, and produce the best results for your projects.
Sometimes it’s hard for busy fundraisers and staff to do things like adjust work flow and quit multitasking. No matter how you choose to refocus during the day, make sure to try to give yourself a break when you can. Mental exhaustion can lead to stress, mistakes, and burn out. Your work makes a difference in the world — don’t forget to take care of yourself!