The Nonprofit Leader's Productivity Pack

June 2023

The summer offers many nonprofit leaders a well-deserved respite from their labors, and also a chance to reflect on their rituals and routines.  If you're pondering a reboot on your productivity plan right now, I've found any of these five classics a good place to start.  

Atomic Habits by James Clear: In "Atomic Habits," James Clear explores the power of small habits and their ability to create remarkable results. Clear provides practical strategies and actionable advice to help you build good habits, break bad ones, and master the art of continuous improvement. As a nonprofit leader, you can apply these principles to enhance your productivity and effectiveness. By making incremental changes and focusing on the small actions that compound over time, you can achieve significant progress in your work. Clear emphasizes the importance of understanding the cues, cravings, and rewards that drive our habits and guides you through the process of creating new habits that align with your goals. With the insights from this book, you'll learn how to optimize your environment, design systems that support your desired outcomes, and stay motivated for long-term success.

Getting Things Done by David Allen: In "Getting Things Done," David Allen presents his renowned methodology for stress-free productivity. Allen's approach, known as GTD, offers a comprehensive system for organizing tasks, projects, and priorities. As a nonprofit leader, you'll benefit from his step-by-step guidance on capturing, clarifying, and organizing your work. By implementing the GTD system, you'll develop a clear and focused mind that allows you to effectively manage your workload. Allen emphasizes the importance of capturing all your commitments and ideas in a reliable external system, which frees up mental space and reduces stress. He introduces practical techniques for processing your tasks, defining next actions, and organizing information. With the GTD methodology, you'll gain a sense of control over your responsibilities and be able to prioritize effectively, ensuring that your efforts align with your nonprofit's mission.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown: In "Essentialism," Greg McKeown explores the power of focusing on what truly matters and eliminating the nonessential. As a nonprofit leader, you often face numerous demands on your time and attention. McKeown's book offers insights and strategies to help you simplify your life and make deliberate choices that align with your highest priorities. By embracing essentialism, you can enhance your decision-making, increase your productivity, and have a greater impact. McKeown guides you through the process of discerning what is truly essential and letting go of activities that don't contribute to your core mission. He emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries, saying no to distractions, and creating space for focused work. By learning to differentiate between the trivial and the vital, you can optimize your time and energy, ultimately leading to greater effectiveness as a nonprofit leader.

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy: "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy is a book that tackles the common problem of procrastination and provides strategies to overcome it. As a nonprofit leader, you often have a multitude of tasks and responsibilities, and it's easy to get overwhelmed and delay important actions. Tracy's book encourages you to identify your biggest priorities--the "frogs"--and tackle them first thing in the morning. By focusing on the most challenging and significant tasks, you can increase your productivity and achieve meaningful results. Tracy offers practical advice on setting clear goals, planning your day effectively, and maintaining discipline. He emphasizes the importance of taking immediate action and avoiding the temptation to procrastinate. With the principles outlined in "Eat That Frog," you'll develop the habit of tackling your most important tasks head-on, allowing you to make steady progress and achieve your nonprofit's objectives.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey is a timeless guide to personal and professional effectiveness. Covey's book presents a holistic approach to success, focusing on foundational habits that can transform your effectiveness as a nonprofit leader. The seven habits--being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, thinking win-win, seeking first to understand then to be understood, synergizing, and sharpening the saw--provide a framework for personal growth and effective leadership. Covey's insights into prioritizing and managing time, fostering collaboration, and cultivating a proactive mindset are particularly valuable for nonprofit leaders juggling multiple responsibilities. By internalizing these principles and incorporating them into your daily routines, you'll enhance your productivity, strengthen your relationships, and lead with greater purpose and effectiveness. "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" equips you with the tools to thrive as a nonprofit leader and make a lasting impact in your organization.

Dr. Patton McDowell, CFRE, MBA, is the author of the best-selling Your Path to Nonprofit Leadership and host of the weekly podcast, also titled Your Path to Nonprofit Leadership.  He founded PMA Nonprofit Leadership in 2009, and has coached and consulted with over 275 nonprofit organizations. A Certified Fundraising Executive and Master Trainer for AFP Global, he also serves as an Executive in Residence at Cornell University's Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.