I don't know about you, but I feel busier than ever, despite the fact that I never leave home!
With everyone being roughly two months into work-from-home, you probably have your office area set-up and if you have children, they are probably wrapping up formal schoolwork. Now, you’re finally able to turn your attention back to optimizing the situation.
What can you do to make work-from-home work for you?
Last week, I posted a collection of tips for managing your remote team. This week, I want to share what I’ve learned about managing myself and my time while being at home all day.
Forget about the 9 to 5
Everything you think you know about work – throw it out. You do not have to be sitting in front of your computer staring at your email from 9 to 5 to be a “good” employee. In fact, that mentality makes you less productive and more miserable. Have your goals for the day, week, month, and project and move towards them every day. Don’t focus on time. Focus on progress to goal. This is a crucial shift if you want to work from home without having a meltdown or having work take over your home life.
Keep at least one day per week without meetings
If I have meetings every single day of the week, I cannot do important projects that require thought-work or intensive writing. Meetings break up the day and pull your focus away from what you need to produce. They are necessary, especially in a remote arrangement, for facilitating teamwork and communication. But they must be kept in their place. I recommend one day every week without meetings to give you time to make progress on important projects. Also, I recommend doing donor meetings one week “on” and one week “off” when working from home. The “off” weeks give you time to recover as well as time to set up the next round of meetings. Which day will you choose to be your meeting-free day of the work week?
No, you don’t have to dress up
I see so many recommendations saying something like, “Get up and get dressed every day, as if you are going to work, to maintain a sense of normalcy.” If that works for you, more power to you. Cope however you can. But – to my mind – one of the benefits of working at home is being able to be comfortable and I’m not about to give that up just to trick myself with a false sense of normalcy. Most days I wear a tank top and yoga pants. When I have meetings, I throw on a cardigan, pull up my hair, and maybe put on some earrings. I relish my comfort and it makes me more productive. If getting dressed works for you, great! But, if you’d rather be cozy, I give you full permission to embrace that aspect of remote work.
Eat the Frog
“Eat the Frog!” means do the thing you are dreading having to do, FIRST. (If you had to eat a frog on a Tuesday, when would you do it? You’d do it first so you wouldn’t spend the whole day worrying about it.) Do it first and then it’s over with. If you have a tedious or boring or time-consuming task, just get it done. Rip off the Band-Aid and then it’s over and you’ve freed up valuable head-space for the other tasks in your list.
Got a pile of thank you notes to write? Do them all in one two-hour period. It’s been proven that people who sit down to pay their bills only once or twice per month are happier with their finances than those that pay each individual bill as it comes in. Beyond the psychological benefits, it’s efficient. I also do it with laundry. I wash giant batches on the weekend and fold it all in one big push. Doing repetitive tasks all together is time-saving and more importantly, it saves MENTAL energy. You aren’t switching gears back and forth all the time. Make a list of 3-4 work tasks and 3-4 personal tasks that you could try batching.
Maybe there’s an “Eat the Frog” kind of task that you don’t like to do but it’s also recurring or repetitive? How to handle that? I like the Pomodoro Technique for this. This is a time management technique in which you decide how long you want to work on a task, set a timer, and then once you do that allotment of time, you get a break.
For instance, maybe you have a tedious data clean-up project that you’ve been procrastinating on? Tell yourself you are going to work on it for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Take the break and then repeat at whatever intervals make sense for your deadline. (If the break is not long enough to motivate you or the time on the task isn’t enough to show real progress, tweak the times until you feel motivation and purpose.)
I use this for housework: clean something, anything for 15 minutes and then I can stop. This technique helps you overcome the biggest hurdle: STARTING. I find the 15-minute requirement gets me off my booty and cleaning. Once I’m up, I generally will finish the task and work beyond the 15 minutes. Some days, I will quit after the allotted time. And that’s ok. I know tomorrow I’ll do it again.
What work task could you use this technique on this week? Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Have a plan for your meals
Food can become frustrating when working from home. When you go to an office, you either have packed a lunch or you are going out to a restaurant to grab something. But at home, you will either must have something ready or you’ll end up cooking all day. Other options include being too hungry to work or eating junk food snacks which will catch up with you in the long run. And don’t get me started on how much it sucks to have a tight schedule of Zoom meetings and nothing ready to eat in between. I tend to do some protein shakes in the morning and cook big meals on Sundays and eat the leftovers for other meals during the week. Could you use your crockpot or insta-pot to have something ready to go while also producing leftover? Find a few recipes to try out next week.
I’m a huge advocate for self-care, especially when you work-from-home. A Zen proverb says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you are very busy, then sit in meditation for an hour.” It’s true that you are more productive when you care for yourself well and do the things you know you should do to be your best self. I define discipline as keeping your promises to yourself. One of the benefits of working from your house is that if you need a meditation break or a yoga break or an exercise break, there’s no one to see you doing it. My office doubles as a home yoga studio and meditation space. Prioritize self-care and it will make you more productive.
Sharpen your saw
Do things that make you more motivated and productive at work. For me, researching, writing about, and teaching fundraising techniques keeps me at my best at my day job. Learn as much as you can about emerging digital opportunities and explore online learning options, which are exploding everywhere right now. Managing your own mindset and motivation level will pay huge dividends.
Have you tried any of these techniques before – in or out of the office? What has worked for you that perhaps I didn’t cover here? Let me know in the comments below. Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
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Self-Care: The Most Important Thing We All Should Be Doing Right Now (How to Build Your Self-Care Practice)
Brace yourself. I'm going to use a buzz word.
Maybe that’s two words.
Here’s a definition of self-care that I love from Psych Central: “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”
Deliberately. You have to do it deliberately. Plan for it. Schedule it. Make it part of your routines.
Also note, that it doesn’t just help you. It helps others because it makes us better partners and collaborators. You’ll be less stressed, healthier, more patient, and probably more kind.
Taking good care of ourselves now is perhaps the most important thing we can do . It will prevent burn out and boredom and restlessness that will help us stay home and flatten that curve. But, I would argue that for non-profit pros, it's absolutely essential. Here's why:
Non-Profit Professionals and Self-Care
Surely you know, that non-profit and fundraising roles can be extremely stressful and that was true long before COVID-19.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an article in August of 2019 about new research showing that 30% of fundraisers plan to leave the field entirely in the next two years!
There are many reasons for this startling statistics, here are a couple:
I can guarantee that the "tremendous pressure to succeed" will only increase as we move through the coronavirus crisis and into the recovery phase.
What does all this have to do with self care? You might ask.
Well, in order to be the absolutely All-Star Fundraiser I know you can be, you have to be your best self. You can’t succumb to nonprofit burnout. The industry needs folks like you to stay in fundraising. With 3 out of 10 fundraisers planning to depart the entire sector (before this crisis), nonprofits will need YOUR unique skills. So, I’m going to encourage you to take care of you.
Shouldn't we be lobbying for a better budget, higher salaries, more cooperative leadership, and more reasonable goals?
bsolutely! In order to do that, you have to be in top form. You will need even more resilience to raise amazing amounts of money while also changing an industry. I’m going to challenge you just to go just a bit further in taking excellent care of yourself.
Self-care: it isn't (all) about crystals and bubble baths!
Self-care has this modern connotation of it being something over-worked wine mommies do. They're looking for a "Calgon-Take-Me-Away" bubble bath. (I just totally dated myself with that commercial reference, didn't I?)
While those sorts of indulgences and treats do have a place in a well-rounded self-care regimen, they are not the core of a self-care practice.
It is not our grand gestures that keep us healthy in body, mind, and spirit, but the small things we do daily. You can quote me on that one.
You need to identify small, sustaining daily habits that can be done on 80-90% of days to help you be in the best form for yourself and others.
To help you build that practice, I've created the Self Care Mind Map and the 90 Day Habit Tracker. (To download both files in PDF format, as well as view my entire Self-Care for Non-Profit Pros webinar, click here.) The process starts with the Self-Care Mind Map.
Self-Care Mind Map
The Self-Care Mind Map is divided into eight areas of our life and I want you to stretch yourself and think of three things you could do in each category that would improve your quality of life. You are not committing to doing any of these things at this point. Just write whatever comes to mind.
You need to fill your brain with a positive can-do attitude and your mind needs to just rest and be clear sometimes. For my Mind Map, I put that I could listen to positive podcasts, meditate for at least five minutes per day, or take periodic detox breaks from social media. Yours might include affirmations, visualization, reading self-help books, or audiobooks. There are so many options to build a healthy, resilient mindset.
Generate some ideas about how you can feed your mind. For example, I love documentaries, about the British Royal Family and World War II (bonus if it’s about both)! I also like to read on many different topics and I like learning foreign languages using the Duolingo app.
It might seem like we are having to give up too much these days. But think about what causes you unnecessary stress or takes away too much time. For me, I don’t consume news in excess and I’m working really hard to stop scrolling on my phone in the mornings.
If we don’t acknowledge and process our feelings, they either appear in the body as illness or they manifest in destruction behaviors (like addiction) and interpersonal patterns (codependency). I wrote on my Mind Map that could set firm boundaries about my needs, practice focusing on what I can control, and I free-write in my journal three quick pages most mornings. (Morning pages is a practice from The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and I highly recommend this book for any creative person.) Yours may be committing to attend 12-step meetings (yes, they have lots of these online and via phone these days), visiting a counselor (also available online), or writing a letter to express a long-held grudge (even if you don't send it). What, if you were deeply honest with yourself, do you need?
There are endless options for this category: you could floss more regularly, lift weights, eat more vegetables, go for a daily walk, get 8 hours of sleep most nights, the list goes on and on. The challenge here is to narrow it down to what you most need and what will truly provide you with the most benefit. Oh yeah! And it has to be something that you can and will do! My two that make me feel amazing are daily yoga practice of at least 15 minutes and getting 10,000-15,000 steps on my Fitbit daily.
Even if you are a hard-core atheist, you still need to attend to your spiritual side (even though the word “spirit” might make you bristle a little). Hear me out: Even if you don’t go to church, do you have a community, a strong friend group that you can rely on. Do you sing daily? Singing is a powerful kind of psychological medicine. I also like reading poetry (and writing it too). What other things can you think of to nourish your sense of wonder and awe at this whole being human thing?
Play has a few particular characteristics. First, play is pleasurable. Sounds like “duh!” but things in this category should be fun. Second, we enter into play voluntarily and most often it is self-chosen and self-directed. So, no putting things you think you “should” do in this category. Play makes us feel like we can do it all day. There’s a feeling of time not moving when you play. My kids help me play. These days, we love having family game nights and family movie nights. Those are precious moments, yes. But I also enjoy them because they are fun for me.
Now, we are really getting into the nitty-gritty. This is where you can let loose a bit. What are three things you might call “guilty pleasures”, the things you are a little embarrassed to admit to someone you respect that you enjoy. I love a good bath. But, that’s become like the stereotype of the harried mother trying to do self-care. Still, it’s a happy place for me. I also love showtunes! And I have an entire collection of vinyl records from Broadway and movie musicals because no one else wanted to buy them! I also love really giant (like Alice in Wonderland-style) ridiculous cups of hot tea. This list will be your go-to when you are ready to indulge.
90 Day Habit Tracker
Ok, now that you’ve filled out your entire mind map, pick 3-5 that you know would improve your quality of life if you did them every day (or most days). If you do this with 80-90% adherence, I’m telling you it will completely change your life. Feel free to throw out a habit if it doesn’t work after a couple of weeks or a month, then replace it with something else. You can also change the duration that you do one practice. For instance, if you started off with 20 minutes of meditation and you find you cannot fit that in, drop the goal to only 5 minutes a day. Have fun figuring out what makes you feel the best.
Back in 2017, I set myself a challenge like this. I wanted to do #yogaeverydamnday and get 10,000 steps every day for 30 days. At the end of that month, my mind was sharp and clear, I had lost a bit of weight without much strenuous effort (and while eating pasta and cannoli when traveling), and when I woke up in the morning I didn’t creak with aches and pains. It was nothing short of remarkable.
When I described the amazing benefits I gleaned from this experiment to my aunt, she stared at me seriously and asked, “Well, why the hell did you stop?” I did not have any good reason. At that point I realized I needed to build this into my life in a sustainable way. There will be days that I twist my ankle and can’t achieve the 10,000 steps. There will be days that I'm too busy with meetings for yoga. That’s ok, too. But working toward 80-90% adherence to healthy habits bring tremendous results.
Also, please remember to find beauty and practice gratitude. I have been snapping pictures of flowers every day, because I’m so genuinely grateful that I can get outside and walk. The weather has been beautiful here (whereas my brother and his family are stuck in late season snow in Colorado) and I have other friends who are stuck inside their homes for the foreseeable future. So, the best thing we can do for ourselves and others right now is to look inward and tend to ourselves like one would tend a garden, cultivating compassion for self and others. The result will be grace.
Grace for ourselves, for our families, our kids, our elders, the healthcare workers, the UPS drivers, our neighbors, everyone we interact with. And please tip your cashiers and delivery drivers very generously, as you are able.
To get through all of this, we will need to take this extra time at home with our family to cultivate our best habits of self-care, which will fortify our body, mind, and spirit. These practices will give us the resilience we need to get through this crisis successfully and come out the other side of stronger in many ways.
If you already have a self-care practice, what does that look like for you? If you used the Self-Care Mind Map, what kinds of things did you come up with to try? Did any of them surprise you? In a couple of weeks, I want to know what benefits you've been able to garner from making some of those things habits? Please let me know in the comments below.
And of course, if any of this stirred up questions, send me your question in the comments and I'll address it.
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We are all scrambling.
The situation with COVID-19 changes day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Hopefully by now, nonprofits have taken steps to allow all but absolutely essential personnel to work from home. Fundraising, while essential, is a function that can be done from a home office. The big question is:
How can we keep our donors connected to our organizations in this unstable environment?
When it became clear that I would not be allowed to travel anymore for work, I fell back on a maxim I heard somewhere early in my fundraising career. It rhymes so that’s convenient and an aid to memory.
In any circumstances where rapid change is taking place, we must take great pains to keep our donors near, dear, and clear. What does that mean as a guide to practical action and how can we all undertake those functions while protecting ourselves and our donors from coronavirus?
Let’s take each part of the maxim in turn:
Near: Be in Contact!
You will need to leverage all forms of media at various levels to keep in touch with your donors.
First, for your major donors, set up as many one-on-one Zoom meetings as you can reasonably handle each week to check in with them and make sure their families are doing okay right now. Take it week-by-week so it will not be overwhelming but striving for 6-8 substantial phone calls or Zoom meetings with major donors per fundraiser seems appropriate.
Secondly, utilize digital means of connection as much as possible. The president of the institution I work for is doing a series of Facebook live discussions this week at the same time every day. Send email updates or text your constituents. Don’t bombard them with info but if you have meaningful information to report, do so on all available channels. If you have Facebook groups, use those to communicate too. Encourage your supporters to share info so it gets in more Newsfeeds and inboxes.
Third, for your mid-level donors or major donors that you cannot check in with immediately, don’t forget about good old mail and phone. You can do a quick check-in calling campaign one day per week and write some hand-written notes. (Of course, please be careful with your mail protocols for hygiene. Use self-adhesive stamps and tape if possible. Barring that, seal or affix with a sponge. And wash your hands well before handling mail to be sent out.)
Dear: Express Gratitude
Your messaging needs to let donors know that you care about them as people. It’s not just about expressing our usual level of stewardship and gratitude. This is thanking them for believing enough in your organization’s mission to hang in there in this time of great change and uncertainty.
Express gratitude not only as a staff member but express gratitude on behalf of those your organization serves. Let them know that because of them, your mission continues and will continue after COVID-19.
Clear: Have Clarity, Openness, and Honesty
Make sure your organization is crystal clear on its priorities. The first of which should be the health, safety, and welfare of those they serve and those who work for the institution. Repeat this often to your constituents.
However, do not shy away from honestly telling donors how this crisis is affecting your organizational needs and its finances. Your major donors and board members especially deserve the candid talk about what is needed, what might be needed, and why.
Did you find the framework of near, dear and clear helpful in thinking about how you are keeping donors connected these days? What other strategies have you tried in the last couple of weeks that keep donors near, dear, and clear? Tell me below in the comments!
Again, I hope this was helpful to you. If it was, please leave me a comment below.
Also, if you found this very helpful, I hope you’ll subscribe. By doing so, you’ll get my FUNdraising Friday emails every Friday with pick-me-ups, helpful articles, and cool freebies. Humor and a commitment to continual learning will no-doubt help us all through this crisis.
Take care and be well,
PS - If you are feeling stressed and anxious and burnt out due to coronavirus, you're not alone. Because so many are facing unprecedented challenges and pressure right now, I'm hosting a free webinar on the topic of Self Care for Non-Profit Professionals. It will take place April 1st. Register today as there are only 100 spots!
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.