I have this feeling that youth work is very much different then work in the big companies. Many times I find on Facebook posts like 7 ways to by more efficient, 5 steps to be successful, or 3 things to improve your productivity. To be honest for me most of those things doesn´t work.
I see the youth work different due to the many reasons. First of all youth work is financially undervalued. It is difficult to get the funding, and even if you get them for the specific activity, usually it is not allowed to pay staff (like in many actions from ERASMUS+ – for example Capacity Building, you can apply fro the project worth 150 000€ meaning many activities and a lot of administration is there, but you are not allowed to pay people who work). This created this very strange dynamics that organization need to work over hours and do much more projects to be able to pay themselves the basic salary.
Secondly the time management is challenging because you work with people, who come to your office for information, consultation or whatever. Those are these improvise situations that are time consuming and interrupt your working flow.
Finally in youth work you need to be good in everything, and if you are not your diverse tasks can take you much more time then planned. And it´s not a job about knowing everything. Since there are no money you need to do everything by yourself – for example: promotion, logos, web pages, posters, renovation work – painting wall, putting the floor, installing the kitchen, designing spaces, writing manuals and proofreading, and translating into many different languages, designing games, and much more…
I am still wandering how to make my working day more efficient and how to work to be able to keep deadlines and be less stressed. Although I found out that there are few important tips that I can share:
- Use the tools that save your time – if you work with computer it needs to be a working one, seriously it´s worth it, then there are many useful programmes that can make your life easier. Its what our job expects from us to be good in everything, and sometimes its really worth save the time by using magisto to make a short movie and give visibility to your projects, or postermywall to create visually amazing posters.
- Start your day that requires most of your concentration – some people say that in the morning people are more efficient that in the afternoon, I say in the morning there are less people coming to the office so there are fewer distractions. Somehow for us the phone starts ringing most around noon and on.
- Put priority tasks first – what I usually do is first when I come to the office I check my TODO list (I use podio as a coworking tool) and choose 3 most important tasks that I want to complete today, and then I do not touch anything else until I finish. Meaning I do not answer to my colleagues giving them advices on their projects, I don´t answer e-mails, I don´t check how many volunteers applied for projects etc. Just the tip – those tasks shouldn´t be longer then 1/3 of your working day.
- Use toggl – this is a very simple and small programme to measure how much time you spend on specific task for each project. When you start the task you switch it on, and when you finish you switch it off. Why to use it? well for me it helped with two things – I managed to learn how many hours I really spend on specific tasks – like how much it really takes to write a project, to write article etc. and this helps in planning in general. Secondly it helped me to limit procrastination. Meaning I know that the time is running, so I don´t stop to answer an e-mail. I just work until is done to switch off the time. btw when I make a break to make myself a tea I stop the time as well!
- Create templates – at first it cost some work, but then makes the life much easier. For example I started working on the partnerships of my organization, and often document called PIF is required. In the document most of the parts are the same always, just you need to describe what are organizations´ specific competences for the project. So always when I write it down, I save all the lists, and how I have one form, where I just need to eliminate the content, depending on what the project is about. Or I have my template in pages with the nice design that I can use whenever I need to make publication. And all info its already there.
- Know where your documents are -this is something I am still suffering. I realized that most of the time I am loosing is because I cannot find something, or something was done before is not on the acceptable quality.
- Plan variety of activities – if you want to do your job well you cannot get burn out. And one of the things that is supporting this process are very repetitive tasks For me for example I am struggling since for the last 3 months I am simply writing. I did already 4 publications (about 25 pages each), several project proposals – again about 40 pages each etc. So I write and write. I am I tired of this. If I would have one publication, one training, one something, life would be much better.
- Rest, plan the rest, enjoy your time that is not work related – I would say that this is the most important point. There will be always urgent things, people stacked at the airports, participants calling in the last moment and cancelling on you, urgent request from stakeholders to do something that you cannot say no… And since the work is usually cool we tend to overwork. NO! What worked for me was planning the rest as an essential part of my existence that I cannot postpone. Like going to the sport center at least 3 times a week, having beer with friends, or going to the beach. So find the stuff you need to do for yourself every week, and put it into your agenda:)