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Perfect Planning – a smooth year

 Raewyn Foxfrom Raewyn Fox, Chief Executive
New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services Inc.

Every year I promise myself, next year I will plan properly at the beginning so things go smoothly. Well, year after year I fail, muddle through and end up feeling stressed many times along the way. This time I decided it was time to break the mould.

For the first time ever I took two weeks holiday before Christmas. The last two weeks of the year are usually a bit of a tidy up but not too much is achieved. So there I was, 5 January, back at work refreshed and raring to go. What joy – no emails, not many phone calls and no interruptions for the first two weeks because lots of people were still on holiday.

Several of our staff also decided to come back early and save holidays for later so we had a good portion of our team there and keen to make best use of our quiet time. Late last year we had some staff changes so it was very beneficial for them to be included in this planning to help them see the big picture and quantify all the activities of a year that they hadn’t yet observed. What we did was close the door and invite all staff to take part in a massive brain dump about everything that happens in our year in all of our departments.

For our organisation every month brings different activities and deadlines. There are times our workload is heavy prior to an activity with preparing papers and setting up processes. Other times our workloads occur after an event with reporting and follow up. Seeing all this time-lined and mapped out on a big calendar easily picked out the pressure points which can cause the stressful times.

Alongside this we can record planned holiday times for staff and easily see how that impacts on other peoples workloads. There are only nine of us in our national office so if two or three are away at the same time and something needs to be done it can cause real pressure on others.

As a result of this we are planning to move some activities by a few weeks to make peaks more manageable and set ourselves a lot of deadlines to guard against tasks colliding with each other. So in theory we are sorted for a stress free smooth year with great efficiencies and happy staff. Now we just need to stick to the plan. Ask me next year if it worked.

Why am I sharing this? You all know the theory and understand the benefits. So did I, but actually having done it properly and involved all staff in the process has created a different feel in the office and greater respect for each other’s workload. I can assure you it is a good feeling to know exactly where you are headed and how you are going to get there.