It’s something we all have (but never enough).

It speeds past when we’re having fun (but drags when we’re not).

It is the most versatile resource we have (but it is so very easily squandered).

One of the themes of the Girlguiding 2020 Vision is “Capacity” – that is, “working collaboratively to improve our processes and decision-making”.

That’s an odd phrase, and I’m glad they have the “what does this mean” boxes, because otherwise I think people would miss the key point of this.

They want to make volunteers lives easier.

Better systems, better processes, less admin, more support.

Less admin?   Hurrah!   I cannot endorse this enough.

I have three units and a division role, and all of them require some admin.

There’s the obvious, of course – the register each week, adding new girls to Go and dealing with Join Us, doing the accounts.

But there’s also the records of which badges people have done – essential to avoid trying to do a badge as a unit only to discover that half of them already have it. Ordering badges – or going to buy them if you use your local trading depot. Booking trips, and the associated consent forms.

It sometimes seems that the list is endless.  We must have some coping mechanisms, or we would go insane.

What have we already done to reduce some of this paper burden?

First, a disclaimer. I don’t actually do all of these things. Teamwork is key. Other leaders organise a lot of the trips, and order badges and uniform for two of my three units.

To a large extent the Guides track their own badges – I note down the interest badges and GFIs, but they do their own Challenge badge records, and they are in charge of planning which badges to do as a unit, so they can’t complain if they pick one they already have.

We have a centralised waiting list for the area, which is run by someone else.

What follows is a compilation of the tricks used by all of these people to reduce their workload.

Top Tip #1: Keep On Top  

Don’t let it build up. If you have a mountain of things to do, you’re less likely to start.

Every week, when you return from your unit meeting, make a list of the tasks you have.

Some of these may be recurring – enter subs into the accounts, for example – and some may be one-offs, like moving a new girl from Join Us to Go. Sometimes, all we want to do when we come home is collapse, but if you can face it, do this one thing.

You don’t have to actually DO the tasks right now, just make sure you write down what they are.

Then, every week at a time of your choosing, DO the tasks. Don’t leave any outstanding if you can possibly help it.

If you do have a mountain already, just remember that you can eat an elephant the same way as you’d eat a biscuit – one bite at a time.

Round Tuit

Tip #2: Do it Right

When you do something, do it right.  Spend the extra five or ten minutes to make a really good job of it.  Don’t rush.

It sounds counter-intuitive.  If I spend more time, I won’t have time to fit everything in.

But if I rush and do it half-heartedly, I’ll have to do it twice.  Or maybe three times.

How much time have you wasted recently doing the same task more than once?

Tip #3: Keep it Safe

If you make a resource (perhaps a quiz of the local area, or a wordsearch on a particular topic), keep it.  There’s no point in making it from scratch next time you want to do the same activity.

But, but the same token, you have to know you’ve got it.

This is where computers are great.  I have a folder on my computer of resources I’ve made over the years.  All of the files have really sensible names, like “Wordsearch – Brownie Badges”, or “WAGGGS Values Matching Pairs Game”.

I don’t need to remember what’s in there.  If I’m planning an evening based around, say, WAGGGS, I’ll go to the computer and type “WAGGGS” into the search bar.  Up pops all the resources I have about WAGGGS.  Pick one, print it out, and off we go.

And if I know I want a game, but don’t care about the theme, I can type in “game” and get a list of everything I’ve made.

Of course, this method won’t work for everyone.  If you’re not joined at the hip with your computer, or you do your planning in a spare five minutes at lunch time at work, you may have to come up with other strategies.

But the principle is the same – keep stuff, and have a method of knowing what you’ve got.

Tip #4: Multitask!

Plan trips while you’re in the car with other Leaders.

Use your evening at camp after the girls have gone to bed to do admin or write out the camp expenses cheques.

Combine a trip to recce a new campsite with picking up some second hand camp kit from someone in another County.

Tip #5: Trust young people with tasks and responsibility

I know, I know – people are forever going on about “girl led guiding”.  I understand how getting Senior Section to run their own meetings would free up your time, but there’s only so much that Rainbows can do, right?

Well, yes, but every little helps.  Why spend time after your unit meeting cleaning the hall, when teaching the girls to do it means that everyone goes home on time?  Why spend your time coming up with ideas for activities when the girls have so many good ideas themselves?

“It is not your job to do everything; it is your job to find someone to do the job and support that volunteer with training, resources, supervision and motivation.” —Melody Jane Moore, Volunteer Coordinator United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Quote via Energise Inc

Tip #6: Look after yourself

Get enough sleep.  Eat well.  Take a break.

It sounds counter-intuitive.  You’re struggling with time, and I want you to spend more time sleeping?  But if you do, you’ll feel more energetic, livelier, more able to put your full effort into things.  You’ll get more done in less time.  And you’ll feel good too!

Stop and think about your life occasionally.  This is another of those things that falls by the wayside when you “don’t have time”, but it can really help.  Think about what you enjoy.  Think about what wasted your time.  Think about what went well and badly, and why – and next time you do that activity it will take less time to plan, and be more enjoyable.

And you might find some things which you don’t need to do at all.

Tip #7: Don’t panic if you can’t do it all

The well-known 80/20 rule states that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the effort.

Figure out which of your actions fall into the 20%.  Make sure you do those, but if you can’t get to the rest, don’t worry!

“The best time management skill I’ve acquired was simply this: If an extra hour of work can wrap up a project or resolve a blocked process, work an extra hour, but if an hour of extra work only skims off the top of a never ending work load-go home and have a beer.” —Joshua Ramey-Renk, Volunteer Coordinator, National Steinbeck Center, CA, USA
Quote via Energize Inc

What tips do you have for packing Guiding into an already busy life? Share them in the comments.


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