24 May

Where Does the Time Go? (The Results Might Surprise You.)

By Kimberly DorrisGraves’ Disease & Thyroid Foundation

At the April 6th luncheon for ONE, Jill S. Goldsmith, JD, LAC, NCC of JSG Executive & Leadership Coaching, presented on “Getting Beyond The Juggling Act”:  Successful Strategies To Improve Productivity & Thrive at Work.”

As the only full-time employee at a nonprofit organization, I found many of Ms. Goldsmith’s recommendations to be helpful, including:

  • Avoid last-minute time crunches by always asking, “what can be done NOW”?
  • Create 90 minutes of “white space” in your schedule each day to work on high value projects.
  • Check email for 30 minutes at a time three times per day. (Ms. Goldsmith noted that “checking email is not a healthy start or end to the day” – although I am finding this easier said than done).
  • If you are a “control freak”, this creates a bottleneck. Consider what others on the team could do without you – as well as whether you have the right team members.
  • In order to avoid encroaching on others’ personal time, use the draft box to save emails composed outside working hours.

One issue that really resonated with me was when Ms. Goldsmith asked audience members to consider what we could shift/eliminate/change in order to gain more time.  One particular process immediately came to mind.  I review Google alerts daily on issues involving thyroid dysfunction and autoimmunity.  In an effort to get through my inbox quickly, I often end up starring the email alerts or bookmarking the articles for later review. Then I end up touching the article four more times: once to read it, again when I’m updating our social media sites, yet again when I’m working on our monthly enewsletter, and then a fourth time in preparation for the our monthly support group meeting.  I’m working on a new process to filter those alerts into a separate gmail folder, with the idea that I won’t pull up the articles at all until I have a block of time to read and digest the information, schedule social media posts, add the link to a draft enewsletter, and print a copy for my next support group meeting.  (Feel free to check in with me to ask how it’s going).

Ms. Goldsmith also challenged attendees to complete a time-tracking project for two weeks.  She recommended tracking in 15-minute blocks and rounding, but I tend to have a larger number of small to-dos, so chose to track start/stop times for all tasks.

At the conclusion of the two weeks, one fairly depressing statistic was that I spent over 4 hours just dealing with technical problems.  My gmail and contacts stopped playing well.  A cloud sharing system was suddenly unavailable.  A login quit working.  A perfectly useful Facebook feature disappeared with no warning.  I haven’t figured out a solution, but perhaps a better approach would be to come back to the tasks after a while to see if the issue resolves on its own, rather than wasting time banging my head against the wall (or keyboard).  But the other results were more encouraging.

First, how I started my day was important.  Fifteen minutes of meditation in the morning made me feel calmer, more focused, and more productive throughout the day.  Starting the day by diving into my Twitter feed, not so much.  (And let’s not talk about the morning I accidentally tripped off my home security alarm).

Tracking blocks of time really forced me to stay on task, as I didn’t want to close out one activity on my log and start another!  For example, while writing a fairly complicated newsletter article, I needed to do a Google search to pull up one particular reference.  However, at the top of the search results was a brand new article on hyperthyroidism.  (Look!  Something shiny!)  Without the time-tracking project, I probably would have pulled up the new article, read it, hopped over to our Facebook site to post it, then started replying to comments on Facebook.  And by the time I eventually made my way back to the original project, I would have needed significant time just to get back on track.

Are you finding yourself wishing you could get more done in less time?  Perhaps you could make process improvements in your own workday – or even tackle Ms. Goldsmith’s time-tracking challenge.  The results might surprise you!

27 Jun

Top 10 “TakeAways” from May 18 – A Necessary Evil: Social Media Pitfalls

Presenter – Michelle Davidson – Office of Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema AZ-09

1. Social media isn’t optional anymore
2. Social media fulfills its promise of getting your message out to the masses.
3. There is power in video
4. Use concise, active words, not passive
5. Check spelling and grammar
6. Don’t “feed the monster”
7. Create an external and internal social media policy
8. Beware of “trolls”
9. Don’t give them broccoli, give them cheese – Make it exciting/interesting
10. Respond as quickly as possible for your agency to comments

Thank you to Dana Terrazas of Child Crisis Arizona for her “TakeAways”.

05 Aug

“We Were Scammed!”

By Karen Jayne, Stardust Non-Profit Building Supplies

How often do you really look at the e-mail address on an internal e-mail? Or even on an e-mail from someone you know and trust? Often I find I am so busy and caught up in what I’m doing that I fail to notice whether the e-mail address is authentic. Would your staff notice if they received an e-mail from you where one letter was changed and everything else look authentic at a glance? My staff didn’t and we were scammed!

It is a normal Wednesday morning, or at least it seems to be. The office is quiet as it usually is with our close-knit administrative staff. Our facility is small with offices only a few feet apart encouraging face-to-face conversation vs. electronic. I suppose that is what made this whole thing so odd. I am working away at all the normal things that fill my day and I see an e-mail from my staff accountant sending me copies of the last 3 years of 990’s.

Odd, I think, and file it away in the “things to ask her about” when I am at a good stopping place and then just kept on working. About 15 minutes later she comes into my office and says, “Karen, I don’t have any authority to draw a cashier’s check for $5,500.”

To which I respond, “Why would you be drawing a cashier’s check for $5,500?”

She responds, “Didn’t you just send me an e-mail asking me to order a cashier’s check for $5,500 to someone named Randy Puckett?”

“No”, I say “I haven’t sent you any e-mails this morning.” She goes to her office and prints me the string of e-mails. Sure enough, it looks like they are coming from me starting with a request to e-mail “Me” copies of the last six months of operating account bank statements and business tax returns.

We’d been scammed! The sender had changed the second “i” in the word “building” in my e-mail address to the letter “l”. The letters are so close together, and the font so small that you wouldn’t notice unless you were inspecting the e-mail and even then you might not notice unless you printed the e-mail and put you’re reading glasses on like I had to do to read the print.

Five hours later, after: checking my e-mail account security to make sure no one hacked it, changing the passwords, alerting the bank, setting up new bank accounts, changing credit card and payroll processing accounts, ordering new checks, deposit slips, and endorsement stamps, filing a police report both locally and with the authorities in the town where the check was supposed to be sent, alerting the Attorney General, updating the board president and treasurer, notifying the board and staff — it all seemed to finally be under control.

We were lucky, our financial controls don’t allow for “ordering cashier checks” or wire transferring money for that matter. But the scammer did get away with copies of our bank statements which included the bank account number.

Lessons We Learned:
• Review financial policies and procedures for dispersing funds. Strong controls mean piece of mind for everyone.

• Set up controls for transmitting sensitive financial information. For example, we no longer transmit sensitive financial information (or any other type of sensitive information) electronically regardless of who asks for the information.

• If sending sensitive financial information (or any type of sensitive information) never send it as a reply to the original e-mail request, always create a new e-mail when you send the information.

• Change passwords frequently.

• Slow Down! I have worked closely with our staff accountant for over three years; I would have never thought she’d be scammed by something that just wasn’t quite right. And in hind sight, it was so easy to spot the oddities in the e-mail correspondence when we took the time to look at the e-mail closely. On the fly, it would have been hard to spot the change to the e-mail address, and even the irregularities to the e-mail correspondence such as:

o The signature line was not exactly correct; it was incomplete, in a different font, and missing several key pieces that are always there such as my e-mail address and our mission statement. To be fair, how many times do you send an e-mail from your phone…does it have your signature line?

o The e-mail was just sort of off – the sender asked for “business tax returns” not quite the right word for tax returns in the non-profit world.

o The sender didn’t sign the e-mail; I always sign my e-mails just above the signature line.

o And, everything was needed “right away” which tricked our staff accountant into thinking it was urgent and not asking me from the very beginning.

Ultimately, this could happen to anyone, especially someone in a one-person department with what feels like a million things to do and never enough time in the day. My recommendation…Slow Down, and hopefully you and your staff will never get taken by this or any other e-mail scam.

If you would like more information on this scam (called “Whaling”) you may find the following article interesting: http://techspective.net/2015/07/02/whaling-attempts-could-cost-you-your-job-and-lose-cash-for-your-company/