Small, recurring admin tasks
I'm gonna jump right in here because my current workload is, well, it's half the reason I'm looking at this system! I'm trying to get to grips with GTD. I'm wondering what people do with small, repeating tasks that need to be batched (or maybe they don't need to be batched, I don't know?)
A quick explanation:
I work for a charity. Part of my job involves processing gifts. I receive gift notifications into my inbox in various ways:
Some are regular monthly reports from institutions that fund us
Some are cheques (sorry, checks) that literally land in my physical inbox
Some are just email notifications that a gift has been made
Different gifts need to be processed in different ways.
When I get the various monthly reports, I just need to update my system with the gifts. I suppose the reminder to do that could be the actual report hitting my email inbox, but I'm not always in a position to action it the moment it arrives.
Cheques, or any other gift from an individual that either physically hits my inbox, or I'm notified about, are actually multi-step tasks: I need to update the systems, I need to write, print, sign then send a letter of thanks. I then need to complete audit forms and take the cheques to Accounts.
This is a small (less than 10%), mundane, but crucial part of my job which is time critical. Donors have to be thanked straight away. If a letter arrives with a donation enclosed, strictly speaking that donation should be processed and the thank-you sent out the same day. The monthly reports, however, are less critical. I just need to get them on the system - well - monthly I suppose - I don't want to generate a backlog of 2 to 3 months, but even if I did it wouldn't be the end of the world, so the 'fire fighting ' tasks tend to get prioritised.
I'm struggling to work out how to fit this part of my role into GTD. I need gift notifications and reports to not be constant interruptions, but at the same time I need to process them in a timely fashion.
My first thought was to have a 'Gift Processing - To Do' folder in my filing system, close at hand and throughout the day. When a gift notification comes in, or if there's a cheque in the post, they simply go into that 'to process file' and then I set aside a chunk of time each day (or maybe every other day) to plough through that file and 'get it to zero', as it were.
Seems simple enough. Although other GTD-ers may have suggestions?
The problem that arises (and the reason I'm writing this post) is that quite often an individual gift notification will, due to some complication or another, simply 'fall out' of the system the way I have it set up. I then don't know what to do with it. I'm not comfortable with making it a task or even a project of its own at that point, because then I end up in a situation where some of my regular gift processing work is in Toodledo in my various folder and context driven lists, and some is just sitting in the folder under the regular 'gift processing' task.
Sometimes when a donation 'falls out' of the regular task system, it ends up being quite lengthy, multi-step project with various 'waiting-fors' and actions.
Any advice on how to handle this would be greatly received.
As director of development (fundraising) for a small museum I understand exactly what your issues are. Gift processing is really important and can turn into a huge mess without a system. However, although this is only a small part of your job, IMHO these are not small, mundane admin tasks.
My first question to you is does your organization have a protocol/workflow established for gift processing? That is, policies and procedures on how cheques are transferred from your desk to the accounting office? If so, that should provide the first framework for your system. Otherwise I think your basic plan is sound. A few thoughts:
For general, routine gift processing: Depending on the volume of gifts coming in and the number of acknowledgements to be written, you might consider separating the two components of the process: 1) entering the gifts into your fundraising database and transferring the checks to accounting and 2) writing/processing/mailing the acknowledgement/thank you letters. In my office, we do 1) DAILY , because getting the gifts to accounting is a priority and 2) WEEKLY. In an ideal world I’d love to send thank you letters out daily, but we are a small shop, and that is just not realistic. Because the thank you process is so time consuming (word-processing, photocopying, postage, etc) it’s MUCH more efficient to batch them in a regularly scheduled time slot. The original, paper source documents get dumped into a To File box to be handled at a later date when batch filing is done.
For the unusual, special situation gift: again, I think you’re right; for whatever reason (the circumstance, your experience, your instinct) you know that you’ve got to handle it differently, so in fact, it IS a project. Re-read your description and you’ll see that you’ve described a project exactly. So I think you need to deal with it as a project, and overcome your resistance to that idea. Once you’ve identified what characteristics make it a multi-step project, you have your GTD system in place to handle it.
As for monthly reports: I use a two-step process here as well. 1) I have a recurring task to run reports for the previous month on the first workday of the following month. The reports I want are set up as a template. 2) Reviewing and reconciling the reports is a separate recurring task that I schedule time for during the first week of each month (usually within a few days of when I run the report). I do this religiously. It is so much easier to reconcile and correct one month’s worth of gifts at a time. SO much easier and less painful than trying to re-construct things and correct them when the auditor arrives next year….