It was that kind of week again. Working 10, 11, and 12 hour days, driving away from the gas station with the gas cap still open, and trying to balance writing testimony for hearings at the Capitol, thinking about media opportunities for the end of tax season, and planning a fundraiser for a board I’m on. What’s more is that I also tried to stop drinking coffee again and switched to tea. Let’s just say that I ended up drinking coffee again by Thursday.
Maybe writing this blog post is therapeutic for me and a means to vent, but I actually think there’s something important to discuss. Nonprofits, doing the good work in the world, are often full of ambitious young people willing to say “yes” to everything because it’s difficult to pass an opportunity that could make a difference and/or further a career. (I obviously couldn’t say no to writing this blog!)
Pausing to reflect over the past week, there were three important learnings that really stuck with me.
1. Don’t forget Front of Box vs. Back of Box
In a book that I recently read entitled Don’t Suck by Mary Milla, the author tells her readers “a way to decide on your key messages is to look at any food that comes in a box.” There’s usually a few main phrases, and those usually draw you into either buying the food or moving along to the next aisle. It isn’t until you get home and want to cook that food that you look at the Back of Box for the process on how to cook it.
Although her book is geared at giving tips about public speaking, I really like this idea when approaching anything -- your weekly check-in with your boss, conversations with your colleagues about a project, and meetings with external organizational partners. The point she’s making in her book is that if you want to hook your listener, start with the Front of Box (main messages) and then move onto the Back of Box (process.) It will save you and others a headache!
2. Remember why you’re doing this work
This part might be a little cheesy (hey, I’m from Wisconsin), but trust me, it’s gouda! I find it very helpful to pause and reconnect with what inspires me. For example, I recently watched a video of Elizabeth Warren nailing holding an opponent of consumer protections accountable for at a Senate hearing. Your inspiration might be a person, an experience, a poem, or reminding yourself of your life calling, but no matter how busy your week might be, rekindle that inspiration for a second and carry it with you in your work.
3. Find your hum
There’s times like last week when my to-do list wasn’t just one list, it was was four pages of notes. So, I shut my office door, took of my shoes, blasted Josh Groban, and just got shit done. This reminded me of a TED talk I watched (included below) a few weeks ago. Shonda Rhimes calls it the hum. She says, "When I am hard at work, when I am deep in it, there is no other feeling." Even when your week is busy, find your hum so you can be productive and crawl out of the lists of "to-do's." Rhimes actually suggests that to help you find your hum, it might mean taking a break from your work and having some fun.
When your next busy day, week, or month rolls around, take a moment to remember a sliver of information from above or recall what works for you. Everyone is different, but I hope you can relate somewhat to at least one of the tips to make your life a little less hectic and more productive.
What is do you do to keep going during a hectic week? Please share in a comment below.