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Volunteer Productivity – 7 Easy Ways to Fit Volunteerism into Your Busy Day

Volunteer Productivity – 7 Easy Ways to Fit Volunteerism into Your Busy Day
help me

You know how it feels to help someone in need…it feels good. Not only does volunteerism improve the world, it also gives the volunteer a sense of purpose and adds meaning to life. It’s an instant boost of happiness and self-esteem. Unfortunately, many productive people don’t volunteer because they can’t fit another appointment into their planner or because they are annoyed with the wasted time required at tedious volunteer training sessions.

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Good news: the internet provides would-be volunteers with the chance to fit good deeds into in less time than most web surfers spend sifting through spam. You can volunteer – without leaving your house or even getting up from your desk. Here are seven ways you can fit volunteerism into your day no matter how busy you are:

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  • Send an email, stop a human rights violation. Every week Amnesty International’s Online Action Center sends action alerts to members of their team. All you have to do is add your name to a pre-written email message urging your state senators or other officials to take action on an urgent human rights issue. You can, of course, alter the message to suit your beliefs. It takes only a couple minutes to send the email and adding your voice can make a world of difference.
  • Become a virtual mentor. In less than a half an hour a week, you can mentor kids and teens through the internet. Help young people set goals, learn study skills, deal home or school issues, and plan for a happy future. Encourage teens interested in your profession through I Could Be. Encourage kids to be successful in school through Achievement Advocate. Or, encourage foster children through Vmentor.
  • Send supplies to a rural family. Many families in rural America struggle to provide their children with the necessities of life. Project Box connects sponsor volunteers with families that really need the help. Each month, send your family a box of much-needed supplies that you choose and ship yourself. For example, you might decide to mail school supplies or a small present for a child’s birthday. Get to know your family through their monthly letters, help them overcome poverty, and encourage them to have the best lives possible.
  • Send cards to sick kids. All it takes is paper and a stamp to put a smile on the face of a sick child. Hugs and Hope provides volunteers with brief biographies of sick kids as well as postal addresses and email addresses. Many of the children have terminal illnesses and reading an uplifting note from a hospital bed could brighten their day.
  • Use a charity shopping portal. You buy stuff online anyway – by enrolling in a charity shopping portal program, the website will donate a percent of your purchases to the charity of your choice. You don’t pay an extra dime. Check out Greater Good and iGive.
  • Encourage a foster kid in college. College can be a tough time for anyone. But, it’s especially challenging for orphaned students who don’t have a family to set an example and offer support. Through an Orphans of America program, you can help brighten a lonely student’s day. Send a card with an uplifting message, a book of stamps, or a gift card.
  • Add an Amber Alert ticker to your website. If you have a website or blog, you can help find missing children by displaying a real-time Amber Alert ticker. When a child can’t be found, users visiting your website will see the details. A code for Amber Alert tickers can be found at Code Amber. It takes only a couple minutes to add.

Before you dismiss volunteering because “it takes too much time,” consider how many minutes you waste every day. Each of the above projects can be completed on your own schedule, whenever you have the opportunity. Make a difference during your lunch break or while waiting in lines. It’s that easy.
Volunteering online is a simple way to do some good – and making a difference is definitely more fulfilling than mindless web surfing.

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Jamie Littlefield is the Senior Editor of Children’s Issues at CharityGuide.org, a non-profit website featuring hundreds of virtual volunteer opportunities focused on children’s issues, animal welfare, environmental protection, and health and safety. Many volunteer projects can be completed in 15 minutes or less.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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