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Busy Solutions

I’m often astounded by how many professionals in charge of major giving at their organizations manage not to accomplish much in the way of actual donor interaction. For years my associates and I have attributed it to the “ready, aim, aim” syndrome, whereby people constantly prepare to prepare to call a prospect or donor but never get around to it. A new study at University of California, Irvine, reported in the Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2014 sheds light on this by showing that people are much happier doing mindless busy work than something of substance.

“With rote work, you get a feeling of accomplishment, but you haven’t exerted a lot of mental activity,” says Dr. Gloria Mark, the lead researcher. “It gives you a feeling of fulfillment, but there’s not frustration or stress.”

Seemingly, when we are fulfilled by busy work we don’t feel too guilty about the more important work that needs to be done. And because busy work is relatively stress-free, we’re able to leave work and feel that we’ve actually accomplished something. Some of this is biorhythmically determined, as our focus typically starts to rise at 11 a.m. and hits its peak between 2 and 3 p.m.

Apparently, you don’t “hit the ground running,” when it comes to reaching peak performance, and there are ebbs and flows throughout the day. Knowing this helps us understand that we’re better off identifying where our ebbs and flows occur, making it easier to plan when we will be successful at performing important tasks.

In donor interactions, just getting started is critical, so I suggest development professionals figure out when their focus is best each day and to schedule donor calls and meetings accordingly. Further, they must block out the time and make it inviolate, instructing others that there can be no interruptions.

Several years back, I was working with my marketing director on a slogan for the business. The one we hit on was “simple solutions for busy people.” It had a nice ring to it and fairly characterized our services. Suddenly, both of us cracked up when we realized that, with just a wrong twist of words, it easily could be read as “busy solutions for simple people.” And that’s a place where we just won’t go.

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