New York Times opinion writer David Leonhardt,  in a terrific column, has great advice for all of us. Get yourself a “Schultz Hour”.

Huh? According to Leonhardt, “When George Schultz was secretary of state in the 1980’s, he liked to carve out one hour each week for quiet reflection. He sat down in his office with a pad of paper and pen, closed the door and told his secretary to interrupt him only if one of two people called: “My wife or the president”.

The need — requirement? — for time to think about the strategic and longer-term aspect of our jobs is as vital for each of us as it was for Secretary Schultz.

Constant busy-ness, frantic and frenetic behavior … not a trait to admire. It’s dangerous and wasteful. Our trade suffers from a shortage of reflection.

For most of us it’s mighty difficult to take an hour’s time, sit quietly and simply think about where we’re going and why?

The constant presence of smart phones texting and beeping and emails to-ing and fro-ing is annoying and distractive at best, and mighty dangerous to quality thought.

These are only some of the diversions and dervishes. As Tom and I see it the biggest disruptor of time, solitude, and high caliber thought are MEETINGS!

Tom and I’ve written dozens of posts condemning the incessant gatherings that waste time and money and so often paralyze organizations. You can get a flavor of how we feel about meetings at Down With Fundraising Nonsense.

When it comes to meetings, George Smith, late great fundraising copywriter, put it best:

I always used to say that meetings were what you were doing when you weren’t working. They remain the regular ceremonial of the client/supplier relationship and a terrifying abuse of everyone’s precious time. The average fundraiser now spends most of his/her time in meetings. Everyone knows there are too many meetings, no one does anything about it. This is why commuter trains are now full of people working – they have been in meetings all day.”

Meetings aren’t the only barriers to calm, clear thought. In his post 9 Levels of Work HellTom summarizes 8 other destructive barriers to productive work:

  • Tool hell — the average executive loses six weeks a year looking for missing information.
  • Rework hell — 25-40% of all spending on projects is wasted as a result of re-work (e.g., starting from scratch every time).
  • Fire Drill hell — the average organization spends 45-50% of its time on unplanned activities.
  • Silo hell — siloed information is a ubiquitous issue throughout the business (i.e., bureaucratic) world.
  • Reporting hell — managers try desperately to put together reports they need for meetings and to justify their jobs … “scrambling to compile information that may or may not exist”).
  • Meeting hell (don’t get Roger started on this one!) — on average, 31 hours per month are spent in unproductive meetings … 73% of workers do other work while in meetings!
  • Interruption hell — the average employee endures 56 interruptions a day, and spends two hours a day recovering from them!
  • Email Hell — the average employee checks their email 36 time per hour.
  • Collaboration hell — tough one, since there’s both over- and under-collaboration.

But I digress. The point is become alert to all the distractions and petty demands on your mind. Then set the phone aside, shut off the email, and take a regular “Schultz Hour”. Just let your mind wander and you’ll discover the creative and productive value of solitude.


P.S. One of our all-time favorite guides to the destructive, dangerous, diversions in the our trade is Jeff Brooks’ Fundraising Hell.




This article was posted in: Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Fundraising philosophy/profession, Nonprofit management, Starting Over.
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