by Ronn Levine
Last year, Fast Company posted an article titled How to Redesign Your Days to Give You Back a Few Extra Hours Every Week. The author listed five categories where we can make changes: Add Something; Quit Something; Limit Something; Pause Something; and Delegate Something. While some ideas don’t translate very well to our unique present—see in-person events—the idea of getting a few hours back in our week seems even more prescient now when most of us are working far more hours than we used to.
So here are some ideas from them and me to fit the categories:
For Quit Something, Fast Company wrote "Quit a recurring meeting. Quit a committee [not an AM&P one; you should join one of those]. Quit Facebook. Quit Candy Crush." Facebook and Asana (which was founded by a Facebook co-founder) both have a company-wide policy of no meetings on Wednesdays. "...makers suffer greatly from interrupts in their flow time...” wrote Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz. “And unlike many companies, at Asana we generally want our managers to be makers some of the time as well, so they need a structure that ensures they get some flow time too."
For the Pause Something, Fast Company wrote: "[Go] on a walk in the middle of the day. [Give] yourself permission to run an errand during your lunch break. Stopping for a moment to assert your ability to do the non-urgent reduces the sense that everything has to happen at a frenetic pace, and that there's no time to slow down." Writes prominent author and speaker Daniel Pink from his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing: "Research shows us that social breaks are better than solo breaks—taking a break with somebody else is more restorative than doing it on your own." While that can be tough to do in person now—especially for those of us who live by ourselves—calling or yes, even zooming a friend to break up a day can be a real spirits boost.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a Day to Unplug, "to recognize that boundaries have become even more blurred/non-existent when working remotely – and we all need breaks, balance and boundaries … and to exercise good selfcare for ourselves, the others in our lives, and our job responsibilities." It had to be taken as a full day (with pay) and could be taken anytime during the month of July. National Unplugging Day is the first Friday in March, but that was pre-Zoom. Monthly now makes more sense.
For Add Something, how about putting a new goal front and center? The Association of Proposal Management Professionals was headed toward a 10,000-member milestone when the pandemic hit. But Rick Harris, APMP’s CEO, decided to move forward faster. “When things are so disturbing and upsetting, there’s a comfort in normality,” Harris said. “We took the approach: We’re all in this together and we’re all moving forward as a team, an association and an industry.”
According to Associations Now, in the last four months, APMP has increased its standard one webinar a month to as many as four per month—they are free for members; some are sponsored—knowing that members needed more information to navigate the crisis. “APMP branded everything with the 10K initiative. Every new staff member was asked to commit to the drive to reach 10,000 members, and the goal was formalized in the strategic plan… Harris credits the book The Art of Membership by Sheri Jacobs as the guiding principle for reaching APMP’s membership goal. His main takeaway? “Keep membership front and center, and make it the center of your universe. Everything is ancillary after that.”
Let's also add more diverse sources. Take some of that extra time we're gaining from that cancelled meeting to find new sources for your next article, magazine or report. With those new sources might just come some new audience.
For Limit Something, we can limit our cliché-ing of generations. Past AM&P keynote speaker James Pogue once told us that generational connections need to be a part that deepens the relationship, allows us to see the different pieces of one another—"to encourage and peel back who we are [and create] the best ways to reach our members and our audience... If we want to create the kind of organizations that are engaging, that are connected and facilitate deep relationships, we have to think about our own actions as leaders—and as followers. As team members, how many times have we said the small things that are irritating?"
Delegate Something might have the most potential of any category. I'm guilty of this myself. I run a couple local Meetup groups for the arts and volunteering here in the Washington, D.C. area. One is quite large and the other much smaller, so naturally I spend more time on the larger one. A woman messaged me and said she noticed there isn't much activity on the smaller one. Could she help? My first reaction was, "Oh I have this plan for that group and I will implement it soon." And then I recalled that I was saying this six months ago and nothing had happened. Someone was offering to help me, nothing was getting done, and I had to think about it? "As you plan your day, ask yourself: Is this something that I really need to do myself, or could someone else do this instead?" Fast Company wrote.
Everyone, repeat after me, "Can you help me with this?"
Ronn Levine is the editorial director of SIIA.