How To Get Those Back-Burner Projects Done This Spring (Finally!)

Guess what, gang? It’s FINALLY April. The weather’s getting warmer, the sun is staying out longer, and work is getting less busy!

Okay, okay. Maybe “less busy” is a stretch for most of us – especially those of you in the throes of gala season. But it’s all made better with the knowledge that summer is just around the corner. Right?

That’s what I look towards, because my work is only starting to pile on! Summer may be considered “down time” for many nonprofit staff, but it’s a different ballgame when you’re in database or systems management. That work is year-round, even if you don’t get to do all the things you know you should be doing throughout the year.

But that’s true for all of us. Whether you’re a fundraiser, program manager or volunteer coordinator, I bet you have some house-keeping tasks on your to-do list that never take priority. Because there’s always something more important going on.

That’s where spring comes in.

Now’s a great time to start planning for all those back-burner projects you never have time for. It’s also a good moment to get your mind right for the warm days ahead – both professionally and personally.

Here’s how to get work-ready this spring!

How To Get That Not-So-High-Priority Work Done This Spring

Spring run - Employed for Good
The springiest photo I could think up this weekend, while brainstorming for this post!

1. Close out those big projects.

Events, school years, email campaigns, fiscal years. Whatever “big stuff” is going down at your org this quarter, wrap it up and finish strong.

2. Clean up your workspace.

While a messy desk may be the result of a hectic quarter or season, you don’t want to bring that drama into this next period! Set aside 1-2 hours to go through those papers and wipe down your desk, mouse and keyboard. This will keep you effective, and it’s a form of self-care you can easily practice while you’re on the clock.

If you work in a high-stress environment, I’m going to argue that this is especially important. Here’s a great article from Psychology Today about why a messy desk can cause us to stress.

3. Start revisiting your ‘wish list’.

Even if you still have projects up in the air, start reacquainting yourself with that wish-list that never sees the light of day. And if you don’t have any of those tasks written down, that’s a great place to start.

In my notepad, you’ll actually find a list called “Salesforce Dreams” – all the things I want to do in our database, but never have the time for! (It really is the stuff of data nerd dreams: maintenance reports, integrations, and the de-dupe of all de-dupes).

4. Get your vacation time on the calendar.

First, self-care everybody. Also, if you’re planning to take a good chunk of time off this summer, get this squared away soon. You’re less likely to have an issue getting your time approved, and you give yourself enough lead time to plan something fun (two lessons I had to learn the hard way over the past 5 years).

Oh! And when it comes to these tasks, you can start planning because you’ll have a sense of when you’re in the office and when you’re out. (p.s. When you’re out of office, please stay that way).

5. Check in with your manager and plan for the unexpected.

When it comes to the mundane projects I have cooking this spring, my boss is happy to sit back and let me do my thing. Unless something big falls onto our laps and all hands need to go on deck.

So I’ve learned to anticipate those moments in advance. I’m shared on the email marketing calendar, so I don’t get totally blindsided by last-minute requests. I also have a sense of my boss’s upcoming projects, things she might need support on down the road. This doesn’t help me cross things off the to-do list, but it does give useful perspective on what my time may look like in the coming months.

6. Set work blocks for those wish-list tasks.

I’ve grown to live by my work calendar, so much that it’s become the official record of my role. I put everything that I do in there, and use calendar holds to block time in advance for things I want to get done each week – like backups and regular data cleansing!

While it’s not necessary to stay organized, I encourage everyone to put work blocks on their public calendar. That way when you check for meetings, you’ll see those reminders to spend time on those tasks!

*Tip*: As your weeks start opening up, set recurring calendar holds for tasks that you want to revisit on a consistent basis.

7. Choose at least one long-term and one short-term projectto work on simultaneously.

When you have a laundry list of non-urgent projects, there’s just no way you’re going to get it all done doing one thing at time.

So work in batches and across multiple tasks. Incremental progress on different fronts is better than pouring all your time this summer into one project alone.

8. Finally, make the most of unexpectedly productive work time.

The nice thing about spring (and summer) is that the productivity potential is high. Time can just fall from the sky one day – in the form of a work-from-home day, or an unusually empty office – and you manage to bang out a task quicker than planned.

I love when this happens. It’s exactly how my org’s database got 300 records cleaner today.

How do make it a point to get important, non-urgent work done? Share your tips – and any other spring-y advice – in the comments!

Share your thoughts!