The tyranny of other things


By: George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Have you ever sat at your desk at the end of a Friday and asked yourself, “How come I didn’t accomplish all the things I planned to do this week?”  So many development professionals that I have known or worked with have asked this very question.  While there are many reasons why people don’t accomplish what they set out to do, one of the reasons many working in the social impact sector face is the tyranny of other things.  Non-profit organizations most often focus all their efforts on mission delivery.  At the same time they also struggle with balancing the number of staff and their individual responsibilities with the never-ending lists of new tasks and ideas that come to bear.  Preparing yourself for this onslaught not only takes preparation, but constant vigilance.  Stephen Covey, described this struggle of the important and the urgent in his famous quadrant diagram.  We are constantly faced with urgent things.  Some are important and others are not.  However, our jobs call us to focus on the important things even if they do not have the most urgency attached to them.  For example, development officers assigned to a portfolio of donors need to commit regular and focused time to their cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  How do we keep these important matters on the top of our to-do lists and keep the non-important matters at bay or at the very least, until after we have completed our essential tasks? Here are a few planning steps ensured to keep you focused:

  • Plan your week – Spend time at the end of the last week charting out the essential work for the following week.
  • Schedule time to do what needs to be done. Important things get scheduled.  Use your schedule to ensure that you have time to do the most important parts of your job.
  • Prepare for your calls. Schedule time the day before to build the notes you need to  execute an excellent cultivation, solicitation, or stewardship call.
  • Track your work through call reports. Too many things happen in our professional lives to count on recall to carry us through in the long-term.  Write appropriate action and call notes after every call and record them in your CRS/donor database.

By thoughtfully planning, you can keep your focus on the most important actions and defeat that great work tyrant, other less-important things.


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