Let’s paint a scene that’s probably all too familiar to all you charity communicators out there. It’s Monday morning and you’ve probably spent at least a slice of the weekend thinking about looming deadlines. Mentally mapping out your week ahead; capturing big meetings and non-negotiable milestones. You have every intention to start this week on a mindful note (you know, focusing on that coveted ‘important but not urgent’ quadrant) and then… reality happens.
Don’t worry though, you are not alone!
In the interests of sharing and helping us all set ourselves up for better wellbeing in 2022 here are some tips that have worked to help keep me focused at Women for Women International. Many of these are repurposed wisdom from seasoned colleagues and mentors because our sector is full of amazing and inspiring people that we can all learn from:
Take a minute before diving in
It’s so tempting to log in and quickly scan your inbox for ‘To review’ and ‘Feedback needed’ subject lines. Adrenaline kicks in and we get into a reactive mode of wanting to score those easy wins, but is this the best use of time when we’re fresh out the gate? Not always.
The most productive weeks often start with looking at the week ahead holistically, asking which days are looking meeting-heavy and where there might be time for deep-dive projects. Working backwards and taking the time to think – and doing this consistently – is one of the biggest game-changers in terms of feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat of the week ahead.
Block time and ask your colleagues to help you
As part of my role at Women for Women International, I review our external comms and the last thing I want to do is keep someone waiting. But I’ve also found that being at the whim of the pings of Outlook notifications leads to very distracted days, half-started projects and not being able to get into a flow.
Speaking to the team and revisiting ways of working has been key. Simple strategies like blocking time for admin and sign-off (as well as lunch and breaks) helps to create a sense of structure. One of my colleagues blocks time in his diary for ‘wind down tasks’ – a final check of emails and wrapping up loose ends before logging off. Play around with what works best for you and remember that the very intention of being more mindful with how you spend your time starts to turn the gears.
Make time to learn and look outside your organisation
This one might seem counterintuitive, and you might be thinking “I’m too stretched to carve out time for this,” but trying to attend external webinars and read sector articles is a good idea even for the very time poor. I recently attended Third Sector’s “Embracing digital first experiences in the charity sector” briefing which featured digital experts like Zoe Amar, founder of Zoe Amar Digital, and Jane Huntington, Head of Applications Development & Support, Guide Dogs UK. Taking time to scan the horizon across the sector and connecting with others who are likely going through many of the same challenges you are is both inspiring and affirming. This perspective is invaluable in keeping motivations up during particularly challenging times – and an important reminder that you are a part of a dedicated, creative and resilient community.
Shelve things – life goes on
As a fundraiser, and a generally KPI-driven person it can sometimes be hard to remember that life goes on after the current quarter we are living in. Yes, targets are there for a reason and we should do our best to meet them but try to think flexibly about what needs to happen right now and what can be parked if needs be. Keep a list so it doesn’t live in your head and, better yet, share it with your team so they can help keep you accountable if these to-do’s start to creep back in.
Between pausing, being intentional, asking for help and making time for learning there is so much within our power to help start on a positive note as we go into a new year. Creating intentional space allows room to reflect on the achievements we’ve had and the hurdles we’ve had to overcome in the process. As a charity community, let’s try to remember (and remind one another) that setting good intentions and practices for the year ahead means we could have a stronger start into 2022.
If any of these tips particularly resonate with you let us know and if you have any additional ones do reach out and tell us so we can all add more learnings to our toolkits.