By Teri S. Blandon, GPC, CFRE; Vice President for External Relations, PAI
In the midst of proposals, reports, meetings, and other demands, finding time to recharge may seem like a luxury. It’s not — it’s a necessity. I recently attended a panel on leadership with executives from major nonprofits, consulting firms and corporate foundations. All are supremely busy people and all said the same thing: you need to step away from the job physically and mentally. Otherwise, you are not doing your best work.
So as we enter the prime months of summer (and for some of us, the mid-point of our fiscal year), I offer you four ideas for recharging your personal batteries.
- Get out of the office. Let’s start with the obvious: take some time off. If your deadlines make getting away impossible in the summer, then plan to take some extended time off when the deadlines have passed. Even the process of planning a future break can help relieve some of the pressure. If a post-Labor Day vacation won’t work for you, consider taking a day here or there during the summer to give yourself a long weekend. If your organization offers flex days, take advantage of them — don’t talk yourself out of it. Yes, the work will still be there when you get back, but you will be in a much better frame of mind to tackle it.
- Shake up your routine. Work routines are good — they make us feel in control and help us get things done. Personally, if I don’t get my lunch and work clothes ready the night before, chances are good I’m going to miss that 7:05 bus in the morning. But routines have a way of becoming ruts, controlling us instead of helping us. I’m not suggesting total chaos (I do have to catch that bus, after all), but change what you can. For me, that can mean taking an alternate exit out of the subway so I’m walking down different streets to work.
- Do something different. Pick one thing to do this summer that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, like ballroom dancing or a drawing class. Or checking out that funky art gallery down the street. Or randomly selecting a podcast and listening to it. Or going to a library and picking a book from a genre that you haven’t tried before (for me, that would be science fiction). Or writing a blog — GPF and GPA are always looking for good articles! Doing something different expands your horizons.
- Practice mindfulness. “Mindfulness” has been used to mean a whole host of practices, including meditation and yoga. At its simplest, it means “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” Here’s an easy experiment — the next time you go to the coffee shop, grocery store or dry cleaners, notice how many times you make eye contact with the person behind the counter. I was shocked to realize how little it actually was for me — not because I’m not a people person, but because I’m busy with pulling out my credit card or swiping my phone for payment, gathering up the items and getting out of the way of the person behind me. But in doing so, I was missing a moment of humanity, of connecting with the other person involved in the transaction. Now, I purposefully make eye contact with the other person (it doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot). Sometimes we have a chance to exchange pleasantries in addition to money. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much more time — literally, five seconds. Five seconds and more often than not, a smile that wasn’t there before – on both of our faces.
So these are the things I’ve come up with to relieve the pressure, be more productive and make life worth living. What are some things you’ve tried? I’d love to hear about them — I’m always on the lookout for ways to bring balance to a busy life. Email me your tips and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.