Time Management for Nonprofit Social Media Professionals: What's Your Best Tip? | Beth's Blog

Time Management for Nonprofit Social Media Professionals: What’s Your Best Tip?

Personal Productivity

Photo by hmcotterill

In the nonprofit sector, time is our most valuable resource.   It can’t be recycled if we squander it.

Distractions are time wasters and you need to manage them not the other way around.    Some interruptions come from our physical environment.  Co-workers stop at your desk to chat or a colleague asks you to compile a report.   Distractions come from the  Internet if  you have email,  Twitter, or mobile phone beeping at you.  Or if  you’ve developed the bad habit of mindless checking of your social sites or other social media bad habits.

Distractions can be internal and come from our brains, our thoughts.   We think of something else we need to do while we are in the middle doing something else.   Or it is negative thoughts that can distract.

What do time management techniques and good habits look like in an age of connectedness?

Photo by TBN98

You Say Tomato,  I say Pomodoro

I stumbled across the Pomodoro technique which is very similar to time boxing  (assigning discrete blocks of time to a particular task and using a timer), but the method also gives you some ways to prioritize work.

I keep a big hairy to do list or inventory.  I jot down projects on the list just to get it out of my head and to figure out how to break them down into smaller chunks.  This minimizes internal distractions for me.   Then I review the list and pick the three most important things
that need to get done that day and put those on an index card on my desk.  Sometimes  I time box those tasks to help me focus.     I also time box tasks that are open-ended, like answering email or participating on social media sites and do these in short 15-30 minute bursts in between the three big tasks on the index card.

Most of our work as social media nonprofit professionals is to be present on our online communities, listen, engage, and manage content.  But for many, those tasks are not necessarily the whole job even if your organization culture is streamlined and simple.

How do you balance your to do list of discrete projects with your daily social media activities that are open-ended?   How you shift between the two types of work?

Schedule Legos


The to do list and breaking down tasks into doable chunks is one dimension of time management, but how you lay out those tasks over your schedule is another.   In this video, Chris Brogan talks about how he manages his time.  I like how he takes a designer’s approach to using his time.  It made me think of building stuff with legos.   He takes you through a 6-hour chunk of time in half-hour and hour increments.    He clearly identifies types of tasks: planning (prep to do the task), reading,  production (writing), interviews, email, and commenting.

He doesn’t share how and when he take breaks which are essential to focus and concentration.    Also, in practice, many people may not have that much control over their work day, especially those working in a nonprofit organizations.

How do you design your work day?

Brain Fitness


Concentration is part of our brain’s function and if your brain isn’t fit – you won’t concentrate or perform well.  There is the mind-body connection which boils down to taking care of yourself.  Getting exercise, taking breaks, drinking water, and making time for solitude.

There is also a rhythm to concentration.  The time of the day can also impact your ability to concentrate.    Are you better at tasks like writing that require a deeper level of attention and concentration in the morning or afternoon?    If morning is your best concentration time, don’t squander it on a task that doesn’t demand focus like answering email.

I’ve charted myself according to times when I reach peak levels of concentration and try as much as can to schedule tasks require it.

If you’re doing social media for your organization,  how are you managing your time effectively?   What area of time management do you need to improve to have your organization’s social media more effective?   Any secrets or tips to share?  Come join us in the Zoetica Forum where we are talking about Social Media Tune Ups this month.

Tags: ,

15 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    Great Post Beth! Thanks for the tips and for Chris’ video!

  2. Geri Stengel says:

    To choose the right time management technique, you need to know how your mind works. Some people must focus on a single task in order to make progress. Others thrive where interruptions are frequent.

    While the Pomodoro technique is intriguing to me — because it might help me track my time better — I know it would not work for some of my friends who like to hyper-focus for hours or flit from one task to another with great results.

    Keeping track of time spent is revealing: We often don’t realize how much time we’ve put into a project, whether it is writing a blog or answering email. Keeping track is critical if we are to get the right things done, allocate costs, and eliminate wasted time.

    That said, I agree with your emphasis on including breaks and exercise. The subconscious does need time to organize things!

  3. I read about an alternative pomodore technique where you put your timer for say ten minutes and do as much of the things you can on that to do list before moving on to the next one and when you’re done the list you come back and complete the tasks using another round of pomodore etc. until everything is done. I’m still trying to figure out whether all activities can benefit from this or just certain types (ex. what about those where you need to be in the flow and there’s a heavy thinking process for hours in a row?)

  4. Beth says:

    Geri: Great points – thanks for sharing. I find that need the hyperfocus to focus – but mix it up with short breaks to do tasks that require less concentration.

  5. Linda Chreno says:

    As an association professional who has seen many different models (and tried most of them), the one tip that I find most helpful is to allocate wrap-up/planning time at the end of the day for the next day, and then start time where I re-look at those items to see if I still feel that they are the correct items for that day. The second part of this planning is to clear my desk – coming into an office with a clear desk helps me to focus on that list for the day instead of immediately being drawn to whatever I see on my desk.

  6. Tzvi says:

    Thanks Beth for this great post! As someone who is managing our organization’s blog and Twitter account (@fcmichigan)outside of my official responsibilities, I would love to hear more about how to manage social media sites with a limited amount of time per day (1-2 hours)

  7. Holly says:

    Awesome post, Beth! I need to go for a walk now to process it. =)

  8. April says:

    Beth ~ what a fantastic article! You’ve really captured a great variety of techniques.

    Reading through them {and then seeing the comments} reminded me of several ADD / ADHD tips I’m familiar with. I’ve often thought the introduction of social media into a work place or job description could make someone connect with ADD tendencies ;D

    The way I’ve avoided getting “sucked in” on Twitter or Facebook is to approach that time as social hour. If I’m working and sending out formatted tweets I use the scheduling option on TweetDeck, if I’m engaging with followers I strike up conversation and give myself permission to have a little virtual-social time.

    Both are equally important but the intention of each is quite different ~ helping me maintain the proper focus.

    Hope that helps!

  9. […] very easily get out of control and become an unbearable burden.  Blog posts by Will Richardson and Beth Kanter both discuss this from different perspectives. There has been a discussion on Quora to which George […]

  10. […] was mainly because I watched Chris Brogans video on time blocking that Beth pointed to in her post on time […]

  11. […] I’m using time blocks to schedule my day. Beth Kanter introduced me to this idea in her post Time Management for Nonprofit Social Media Professionals. She shares a video that Chris Brogan made explaining how he uses time […]

  12. Melissa says:

    I think this post may have saved my life, or at least my sanity. I really appreciate the tips; even though social media isn’t my primary, I still found the idea of time blocking and spending time on set-up prior to diving into content very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  13. 100% agreed – word to word! To me Social Media is the most hyped around buzz word of current times. We all know it; We all understand it; And we all are, well at times, upset about it. I have tried to use simple techniques like “Learn about Time Management”, “Define your goals properly”, “Prioritize your activities”, etc. to make sure I don’t get addicted and glued to my facebook account all the time. I have tried to capture all that in my blog: http://blog.ellipsissolutions.com/2011/03/15/is-social-media-messing-with-your-social-life/

    Hope it will help others too.


  14. […] being time management, you’ll find that there are a wealth of resources available to help. From Beth Kanter’s blog to Event 360 to Electric […]

  15. […] Beth Kantor explained, ” in the nonprofit sector, time is our most valuable resource,” so I hope that these […]