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If you want to be a leader of an organization and have a rich and fulfilling personal life, it is important to be intentional and proactive. Both of those words accurately describe today’s guest Molly Hennighausen. As an Executive Director, Molly has developed a system that supports her organization’s goal, her professional goals, and her personal goals. Molly’s passion and thoughtfulness is an inspiration for anyone wanting to live a full and intentional life. Read on to learn about Molly’s ambitious hiking goal, why she plans her week on Thursdays, how she has created a Self Care section in her planner, and how she brings her technique and philosophy into her leadership.
How often and when do you set goals for yourself?
I set goals for myself daily. At work, I begin my day by setting goals for what I want to get done that day and the week. I also check my list from the day before as well as my long term list, to see if anything needs to get moved around.
In my personal life, I set goals for myself pretty often as well. Right now, I have a goal to hike all 46 high peaks in the Adirondack region, among other hiking challenges, so I plan my weekends around fulfilling that goal.
About every 6-9 months, I also check in with myself to see whether I am still actively working towards my future goals, whether career or otherwise, and whether there is something I need to change/add to get where I want to. What can I say? I like having things to work towards!
Talk me through your weekly planning process
My weekly planning process starts the Thursday or Friday beforehand. Because Friday is usually a rush in all department offices to make sure that things are where they should be, I use Thursday as my planning time. I begin by checking the weather for the weekend and plan my outdoor activities, knowing that a fulfilling weekend leads to a much more productive workweek. I also schedule in a half-day for cleaning or chores around the house, since I rarely have time during the week to do major home projects.
A fulfilling weekend leads to a much more productive workweek.
On that Thursday, I also review that week’s daily lists to see if anything still needs to be addressed or moved to do first thing on Monday morning. Those are usually my priorities. I also check my long term lists to see what new projects I am set to begin. I keep two long term lists, one for the organization and one for my personal tasks. The organization list is a breakdown of what happens each month of the year. I use this to make sure that my team is still on track. My personal list can include anything from networking with specific individuals to writing up contracts for incoming artists.
For me, work and personal life blend together, so when I know that I have a busier day at work, I will also be sure to plan a way for me to relax or clear my head, such as a run or making time to read 30 pages in a book. I also plan a lot of my meals, because taking away the unknown helps me stay focused on the present. A day in my planner is organized by morning, afternoon, self care, and general. Morning and afternoon are for work projects, self care is where I note a planned workout or other self-care activity, and general is for grocery shopping, dinner plans, or tidying the living room. During my weekly planning session, I plan my self care and general for the upcoming week but leave the morning and afternoon areas blank to be filled in when I report to work.
What tools do you find indispensable for staying organized?
My Outlook calendar and my notebook. I have used a variety of planners in the past and I have learned from all of them, but I now keep a blank notebook that I fill in as best fits the day. My Outlook calendar is where I schedule all of my meetings and I would be lost without it.
How do you structure your workdays?
The first thing I do when I get in is check my calendar for the day. I then revisit my to-do list from the day before and figure out my action plan for the day. Finally, I begin to check emails and let the day unfold from there.
Periodically, I also block off time in my calendar for “Thinking Time”. Often, as the leader of an organization, I get so busy completing my to-do list or checking in on my employees, that I forget that I need time to think about the direction that the organization is moving in. I try to schedule time every two weeks to research what other organizations are doing or reflect on what we are doing. Scheduling this in my calendar ahead of time is useful because I feel accountable to my past self.
What do you do when you feel stuck or overwhelmed?
I’m not sure what the correct term is, but I use what I call “Time Boxing”. I get very specific and set my timer to work on tasks. For example, if I see that I have a ton of emails and begin to get a feeling of dread at the thought of processing them, I set my timer for 10 minutes and just start hacking away. If my mind starts to drift, I look at that timer and tell myself “It’s only 3 more minutes”. At the end of that 10 minutes, I will reset my timer and either move onto another task for a short amount of time or decide that those emails aren’t so overwhelming after all and keep at it.
How has your approach to productivity changed over time?
Good question! And I have three immediate answers.
First, I used to be overwhelmed at the thought of everything that needed to happen in order to accomplish the big picture, but now I actively focus on today, making the to-do list much more manageable.
Second, I actively measure results and not time spent. A small way that I do this when I need a reminder is to make a “done” list at the end of the day. I also make sure that my staff knows that I value the “done list” more than hours in the office. I was once told by a colleague, “If you can’t get it done in the time allotted, look at the why and figure out a better way”. I constantly question whether there might be a better way.
I was once told by a colleague, “If you can’t get it done in the time allotted, look at the why and figure out a better way”. I constantly question whether there might be a better way.
Lastly, and most importantly in my world view, productivity does not always mean getting a specific task done. It also means working better and building a routine around completing “The Work”. At my organization, I try to imbue a sense of pride for every stage of the process leading to completion. That includes building habits that help us start work and knowing how to set you and your team up for success. For example, I am very productive in the morning but need a boost in the afternoons, so I schedule time for a walk outdoors for my second wind. For my staff, it might mean schedule flexibility, allowing for staff members to shift hours in order to accommodate a gym class in the morning or leaving early to meet their child after school. I always want to know what accommodations I can make in order to create a more productive and joyful work environment for my employees.
At my organization, I try to imbue a sense of pride for every stage of the process leading to completion.
Bonus Questions! What is your favorite kind of pen to write with?
Uni-ball Vision Elite in Black
Learn More about Molly!
As an Arts Manager and Advocate with over 15 years of experience working with arts organizations, my mission is to foster the arts by making space for artists to create and collaborate. The Arts contribute to societal well-being because they begin in truth and storytelling, whether it is an individual’s story or a community’s story. Artists translate these stories in unique and truthful ways to reach a diversity of listeners. I feel my responsibility is to provide the resources and make the space for artists to do this important work.
I am passionate about improving organizations through strategic thinking and business acumen while maintaining artistic creation at the core of the organization’s mission. I have created and implemented new organizational structures, streamlined operations, and increased contributed revenue to develop more successful and sustainable pathways to grow organization operations. The artistic process is at the core of what I value. My own path started through Stage Management and then developed more broadly into Arts Management. I hold an MFA in Theatre Management from the Yale School of Drama and a BA in Stage Management from Ithaca College.
In addition to my work, I enjoy hiking, playing with my dog, cycling, and eating dinner with my husband.