Today I want to share some insights about a subject that’s been top of mind for me lately…. Capacity.

Do you have unlimited capacity? This is a question I pose to Executive Directors and their board members from time to time. I usually get a laugh or at least a chuckle! The answer is: Of course not!

One of the most important responsibilities nonprofit leaders have is to make decisions about how to “spend” their capacity (and that of those they manage). In my experience, leaders like you pretty readily think about how the money is being spent. But that is only one kind of capacity your nonprofit possesses. Your human capital is another very important one.

We’ve all heard the stories about how overwhelmed and stressed nonprofit executives, their staff, and even board members working within nonprofits are. We all have a responsibility to take control of our capacity and to be sensitive to that of others we influence.

So here are 5 tips to help you better manage your capacity and that of your team:

1. Know where your capacity is being used.
When I was a nonprofit CEO I would occasionally do a personal time study. I know it takes time and discipline but the rewards are worth it. For at least two weeks, preferably four, write down where you are spending your time: meetings, email, phone calls, snail mail, social media, projects etc. Make a list of where you expect to spend your time (capacity!) and then track it, adding things you didn’t think of as you go. It also helps to project how much of your time you want to spend in those categories.
Also consider how quarterly or annual events factor in. I know things change from month to month for you but, trust me, this works.

2. Identify where you can make changes.
Look at the results of your time study and decide: what can you delegate, eliminate, share? One strategy I found helpful (though I hate to admit it) is that I decided which meetings (external to my nonprofit) that I could arrive at late, leave early, or skip once in a while. Think hard about the value you are getting from meetings and act accordingly. Look at other areas with a similar “lens”.

3. Manage your energy, not your time.
I have written about this before but it bears repeating. Research in business settings confirms that taking care of yourself actually increases your productivity. Don’t skip this part! It really matters and it is one way you can enhance your capacity.

4. Manage your team’s capacity intentionally.
They are doing this at Huffington Pose. An idea in a recent blog of theirs that I like is to be aware of and share potential “risks” to your capacity. For example, if your child gets a cold you may also catch it. That obviously limits your capacity. Together you can develop strategies to manage this if you plan ahead.

5. Fill up your calendar.
This one is hard (they all are!) but it is working for me. I sit down at the beginning of the week and I put all my tasks on my calendar – even personal ones—that I want to get done that week. That way I am forced to prioritize and commit. At first, I found I had already filled up my weeks too much—there was little room. But now, with discipline, it is getting better. I am finding it very helpful and the reward is that I feel really productive!

I would love to hear from you re: how you manage your capacity. What kinds of information or tools could I share that would be most valuable to you?