We’re one month into the new year – have your resolutions gone to the wayside? Are you back in the rut of crazy, stressful days working away, with no time to think or take a breath?
I thought that might be the case!
And so, I wanted to remind you all of this brilliant piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: 10 Ways to Work Smarter in 2017 by Rebecca Koenig. Note the apropos use of the word smarter as opposed to harder. This piece has strategy and self-care all over it: two of my favorite words.
You should take the time to read about all ten ways, but here are some of my favorites and why:
- Reserve time to work without meetings. I use time blocking in my calendar and it is the only way I stay organized and productive! I put most of the projects I’m working on as “Free” time in Outlook, but if there’s something you need to work on with no interruptions, you can always say you’re busy. A meeting with yourself is just as important (if not more) than a meeting with others.
- Stop overusing social media at work. Can I shout this one from the rooftops? I’m definitely one to pop on all my social media channels during my lunch break, but if it’s not break time, it’s not Snapchat time. It’s easy to spend hours on Facebook, so don’t tempt yourself and don’t do it!
- Build strong relationships outside of your office. Spending time with other people who work in the nonprofit world but not at your organization can be incredibly rejuvenating. It can make you feel like you’re not alone in your struggles, or make you realize how wrong something is. Either way, it’s a success. And it is very validating!
- Accept imperfection. Made a mistake? Don’t beat yourself up about it. The more you stress over it, the more it creeps into the quality of your work. Mistakes are what make the successes even that much sweeter.
Brava, Rebecca Koenig. And here’s to a 2017 full of self-love!
I recently came across this post and found it fascinating: Want to Be Happy at Work? Care Less About It by Kelly O’Laughlin on Quiet Revolution. Whether or not you’re an introvert, you will likely relate to this post if you’re a hard-working Millennial working at a nonprofit. So many of us are working our hearts out for our clients and for the benefits of others, and unfortunately the term “nonprofit burnout” is not one that’s foreign to us.
I was hesitant to completely buy in to the post until she compared my 80% effort to others’ 100%… and then I got it. By not giving my all 100% of the time, I am recognizing that I am not perfect and cannot solve all of the world’s problems all by myself. It’s a moment of remembering my last post, Be An Average Nonprofit Unicorn. This quote specifically resonated with me:
“Putting in slightly less effort in times of high stress doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job; it means you care about yourself more.”
Let’s remember to focus on self-love and self-care first and foremost. Because we can only show up to take care of others after we have shown up to take care of ourselves.
I’m in the middle of my summer break from grad school (I’m getting my Masters in Nonprofit Administration at University of San Francisco) and it is glorious. I have time to jog, clean the house, and sleep – all things that eluded me when I was in school (OK, OK, I still cleaned the house, but I didn’t keep up with it the way I am now!). But more than allowing me to watch hours of Mad Men, this break has done a lot for me.
Here’s a few reasons why a break from grad school is so important.
- It brings you back to your center. I have to admit that managing full time work and grad school made my inner equilibrium go haywire. There were moments when I found the balance again, but the majority of the time I was off. I was stressed out and finding it difficult to determine priorities. Having more than a week off from school has allowed me to explore a more balanced lifestyle. And while it doesn’t mean I will jump back into the program stress free, it does mean that I am renewed and ready to move forward. I remember what it’s like to be balanced again.
- It allows you time to reflect. Having some time away from the program has caused me to think back on the past year and how the material will impact my professional life in the future. With such a practical program, it’s easy to see how it can be useful in the moment. What will be important is how it will be useful in the future. And without being immersed in learning new material, I can take a step back and evaluate the importance this program will have to my life.
- It builds excitement to start again. While I don’t miss the stress of always having something to do, I do miss the learning aspect of my program. I have really enjoyed being an active participant in understanding the nonprofit sector today and how I can be a part of it and make change (or simply promote something that’s successful). Having this break has given me breathing room to understand grad school’s importance to my life again.
I want to emphasize the importance of having a REAL break, too. I had a break of a comparable size in December/January and yet it didn’t have this effect on me at all. I was running around, preparing for the holidays, and I even got sick for a long period of time. That did not count. I was so distracted with things that I didn’t feel relaxed at all. This break has been great because I’ve been able to really relax and do the things I love (yes, that includes watching Netflix). And it’s been more than wonderful for me. Now, check back with me in a month and remind me of this post!!
The silliest title to a blog post that I’ve ever written. But – for some of us overachievers, very important to know!! Relaxing is not always something that comes naturally to us in today’s world. We’re used to going full speed ahead, being efficient, and getting it done, always thinking about the next project. We’re not so used to taking time for ourselves and chilling out.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to relax and remember these tips. They’re not intuitive when your mind is always on the go!
- Clear your mind. This means leave your work at work and put your commitments aside. Relaxing is not going to do any good if your mind is still going over your to do list. Nothing productive comes from obsessing over what needs to be done or dwelling on your problems. When it’s time to relax, put all of that thinking aside and clear your mind of the clutter.
- Find what you love to do and do it, no matter what anyone else says. We don’t have TV at home, so Hulu is a treat to me. My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy when instead of getting extra sleep, I want to watch an episode of Project Runway. Although it seems counter-intuitive to him that watching TV would actually relax me, I swear it does. For those 44 precious minutes I don’t have to think about anything except for Heidi Klum. So I do it!
- Schedule it in. You know how I often give a tip that I myself have to work on including in my life? This one is it. It is so important to make relaxing a priority in your life – self-care is something that should always be at the top of your list, to avoid getting sick and being unhappy.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to really take to heart the importance of relaxing. Even if you take just an hour a week… it’s so important. And keep these tips in mind! Your body and mind will thank you!