Add Productivity to the Last Hour of the Day

The last hour of the day can feel like a productivity killer. But a workplace efficiency trend, called the “soft project” hour, might help you to refocus and tackle those small membership to-do items.

You know the feeling. It’s been a long day filled with conference calls, staff meetings, and project planning. The clock strikes 4 p.m., and you start to feel a productivity buzzkill.

Don’t stare blankly at the computer screen. Instead, try a concept called the “soft project” hour, which allows you to finish work that doesn’t require much time or effort. In other words, end your day tackling elusive to-dos that you want to cross of your list.

Recently, career site TheMuse mapped out soft projects that a typical office worker can accomplish on any given day. That idea got me thinking about membership directors and managers, who often have a wish list of items that would allow them to better meet member needs. But what are some of the easier and routine tasks that might help the department run more smoothly?

I talked with some membership staffers and consultants who offered these tips to maximizing productivity over the course of the workweek.

Monday: Declutter Membership Data

I like to start my week by getting organized. For membership managers, this could include organizing the association’s database.

Even if you’re an association with the latest and greatest AMS, there’s a good chance your database could use some scrubbing, especially if you have duplicate or incomplete member data.

A week-by-week approach can especially help if you are building or rebuilding your database. Julie Bly, a membership recruitment specialist at the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, has been gradually building the ICCFA database to help her project future membership growth.

While the process of building your membership database may seem daunting, a weekly approach can go a long way toward improving your member communication and increasing engagement. For example, once duplicate or incomplete data has been filled, membership managers can develop audience lists to reach segments like new or lapsed members.

Tuesday: Act Like a Member

Too often, membership staff plan for projects without thinking about the member’s experience. Start by doing a few simple Google searches of your association name to “follow the rabbit trail,” says Kevin Whorton, president of Whorton Marketing and Research. Simple web browsing might reveal unexpected results, and it’s better if you have web analytics to analyze.

Take the National Association of Professional Organizers, which found that many members were struggling with the lengthy form on its “contact us” page. Membership Engagement Manager Emily Green says a few simple changes to that page more than doubled the number of daily requests and allowed for prompt replies from NAPO staff.

If you’re an association that has chapters, don’t forget to test out or visit those websites too, Whorton says. “Do it weekly with different ones,” he says. After all, an association’s front door might not be the national group’s site, but rather a smaller chapter with its own operational structure.

Wednesday: Hold Office Hours

Host a weekly office hour—just like your college professors did—where you clear your calendar and invite staff to stop by and discuss whatever is on the mind. Don’t get me wrong—you can still do work during this hour, but essentially you’re opening your door to interruptions. Maybe it’s an informal conversation about marketing and membership or a quick brainstorm with volunteer relations about how to recruit some new faces.

In my experience, this time is the most collaborative and creative part of the week, especially if you can get other staff to sign on and host office hours at the same time. My team met in a conference room, and hint: Free food and beverages attract office hour attendees.

Clearing time on your calendar lets the entire office know that your door is open, which might help break down some of those departmental barriers.

Thursday: Look in the Rearview Mirror

How often do you take time out of our week for contemplation?

The best way to transition from work to home is with a dedicated period of time for self-reflection and evaluation. For membership teams, it could mean a quick huddle to review month-to-month membership trends and possibly tweak your future projections or forecast. Or, it might mean taking a moment to review a project success or #fail to develop a list of lessons that can be used moving forward.

Friday: Call a Member

Friday afternoon is probably the least productive time period in the work week, which is why I find it’s a great time to interview and talk to people by phone. For membership teams, this could be the perfect opportunity to deepen member relations. But don’t overcomplicate the call. The conversation is meant to be casual and easy, so talk to a member for 20 to 30 minutes and ask, “What keeps you up at night?”

That’s something that Whorton says he does on behalf of his clients. He says membership teams should stay in touch with and between the ears of their constituents because this feedback can advance an idea or thinking. It’s also validation to members that they are being heard.

When a phone call is inconvenient, a soft-touch email can help too. Recently, I highlighted an example where the Radio Television Digital News Association got members to update their profile and career information simply by congratulating them on a new job.

What types of soft projects do you devote time to? Are there specific membership to-dos that you wish you had more time for? Leave your answers in the comment thread below.


Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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