by Allison Kooser | Apr 28, 2022 | +Good Newsletter, Work Smarter
It’s no surprise that we’re fierce advocates of protecting our time. And one of our favorite things to remind our teams is that there is no such thing as a work emergency when you work in digital marketing. (In case you need the reminder, too: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MARKETING WORK EMERGENCY.)
Humans are humans, donors are donors, coworkers are coworkers, and clients are clients. All too often, the people around you forget to plan (or ignore your well-crafted plans) and force you into a time crunch. And as much as you try to cancel meetings and set boundaries, you aren’t the only one who can throw a wrench in your calendar.
So while, philosophically, you don’t have emergencies, practically, if you’re anything like us, you definitely have pressure.
The question, then, is what do you do in response?
What do you do when people need things and they need them now?
What do you do when it feels like you cannot take a sick day because you’ll fall too far behind?
What do you do when your to-do list has 900 competing priorities, all of which deserve attention, and most of which needed attention yesterday?
After hiding under the covers or screaming into a pillow or taking a long shower (all very cathartic, in case you were wondering…), we like to follow a few simple guidelines to deal with stressful days (weeks, months…). This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start on things that feel like emergencies (that aren’t really emergencies).
8 ways to respond to that “work emergency”:
- Take a deep breath. You might not get to everything. That sucks, but that’s reality. Got it? Keep breathing. You’re no good to anyone if you’re hyperventilating.
- Prioritize your list. We know everything feels like it needs to get done right this second, but if you slow down and look, that might not actually be true. What can you possibly move to a different day? Can anything go to next week? On really crazy days, we prioritize by the hour. What needs to be done before noon? Delete everything else from the morning list.
- Phone a friend. Who on your team can jump in? Call them. Right now. You do not need to be a hero, and being a hero will destroy you. You do not need to shoulder the entirety of a stressful situation on your own. This is why coworkers exist. This is why we build great teams.
- Set expectations. Are you really not going to make a deadline? Tell someone. Yes, this conversation is not going to be fun, but better to establish an honest reality than have your stakeholders assuming one thing and experiencing another.
- Eat snacks. We are firm believers that 85% of life’s challenges get better after a nap and a snack. If you have the ability to power nap for 20 minutes, do that. If not, at the very least, eat something.
- Ruthlessly eliminate unnecessary tasks. One of our team members used to produce a major conference for a client every year, and in the two weeks leading up to the event, she put a hard-core screening system on her email and phone. If you were not a direct vendor for the event, she sent you to voicemail and didn’t call you back until the event was over. Brutal. But effective. Did people get annoyed? Sure. But the priority was the priority, and everything else was…not.
- Take dance breaks. Our brains are not designed to focus all day long. In fact, our brains cannot focus all day long. Research shows that it is WAY more effective to work in spurts punctuated by true breaks than it is to “power through.” So take breaks. Blast some music. Dance. Then get back to it.
- When you hit your breaking point, stop. Listen. You matter so much more than your work. Do not let a project (even a very important project) hurt you. If you are getting sick, stop. If you cannot keep your eyes open, stop. If you feel like your mental health is teetering toward precarious places, stop. It’s not worth it. You are. Protect yourself. Be your own fiercest advocate.
We know what busy seasons feel like. We know what overwhelming days feel like. And we know that we are still learning to deal with work stress right alongside you.
We also know that cracking this nut is important because our well-being is important. We want to love our work, and that means developing a plan to handle hot mess disasters even before they arise.
What would you add to our list? What helps you get through even the most pressure-filled moments? Let us know in the comments.
by Allison Kooser | Apr 14, 2022 | +Good Newsletter, Work Smarter
Here at Swell+Good, we talk a lot about work processes. How do we make our team more efficient? How do we improve quality? How can we better serve our clients? And, most importantly, how do we make sure that everyone on our team actually gets to enjoy their life?
Yes, we love marketing. And yes, we love helping organizations raise more support so that they can better do the work they were born to do. That’s our what, and we’re kind of obsessed with it.
But if we’re honest, we give equal attention to our how—to the way we do the work, not just the work itself. We’re very, very into work culture. We’re very, very into people being humans first and employees second. And we’re very, very into work being fun and not-terrible.
We were virtual and remote long before being virtual and remote was cool, so we’ve had lots of time to get creative on how we connect and communicate—and ultimately we feel pretty proud of where we’ve landed.
Our tricks aren’t magic, but they are intentional. And over the next few weeks, we’re excited to give you an inside look at the secret sauce of Swell+Good.
First up, we’re asynchronous.
That means that our team can work whenever they want, wherever they want.
Or, more simply, working asynchronously means when you send a message you don’t expect an immediate response.
And here’s the deal: “Not only does async produce the best work results, it also lets people do more meaningful work and live freer, more fulfilled lives.”
Working Asynchronously? How? Well, let’s turn to the research!
- Synchronous communication prioritizes communication over productivity. “Synchronous communication is heavy on staying connected. Here, you are expected to be available at all times during the day. In a team group chat with over 10, 50, or even 100 employees, this could mean you could possibly miss out on important information just because you weren’t available within a certain timeframe.” (Read more!)
We’ve all experienced this, right? Sitting on Slack waiting for a response? Getting left behind as a reply-all email spirals out of control? Watching your colleagues travel way off course on a problem you could have solved in two seconds all because you took a 30-minute break to make a sandwich?
- Synchronous communication promotes overworking and increases work-related stress. “Being constantly available translates to working 24/7 with no downtime. Employees, especially those with parental and spousal responsibilities, fail to find a work-life balance, resulting in increased levels of stress that can often lead to burnout.” (Read more!)
This is the real problem. When you’re expected to be “on” 24/7, you’ll….be on 24/7. And that’s just not a healthy way to live.
(You already know our opinions on work emergencies. And if not, here’s a hint: You don’t actually have any.)
But here’s the deal, friends. It doesn’t have to be this way.
When you prioritize working asynchronously instead of rapid chat (or, even worse, constant meetings), you give your team freedom. You give them flexibility. You give them time.
Sure, we have client calls that are scheduled. And there are some conversations that just have to happen immediately. But 85% of our internal communication can wait—so it does.
- Really, really good task and project management. We use Basecamp (another huge fan of async, btw), but you can use any tool you like. The key is actually using it—and making sure that everyone on your team is using it, too.
- Long-form written updates. It’s the old “this meeting could have been an email” except instead of an email, we default to public posts. Have notes you want to share? Type them up. Have a discussion question? Post it and let people reply when they have time. Writing—then sharing that writing in an open-to-your-team forum—is where the magic happens.
- Plan ahead. If you don’t want crazy, “emergency, do this now” deadlines, you need to have a long horizon. Same-day deadlines are not in our policy (they happen sporadically because…life, but they are absolutely the exception, not the rule). This lets people plan their days and their weeks without worrying about missing a key task that got added to their list two hours ago.
- Over-communicate. Asynchronous communication works when everyone explains everything they’re thinking. Over-communication also makes occasional meetings and conversations way more productive because everyone on your team is already up to speed!
We’ll keep sending you what we’re learning about working asynchronously (and all of our work processes! We’ve got lots more to test and discover and share!)—and we want to hear from you, too! Have you tried async communication? How has it worked for you? Let us know by replying to this email. Just make sure you do it at a time that works for you.
by Allison Kooser | Mar 11, 2022 | +Good Newsletter, Gratitudes
This week, we are thankful for…hobbies. One of our team members is learning to knit. Another loves hiking. And one went alllll the way down the sourdough rabbit hole mid-pandemic. Here at Swell+Good, we are decidedly pro-hobby. We love doing things that serve no material purpose other than to bring us joy. (Honestly, the best goal.) And we love trying something new—even (especially) when we’re total beginners. It’s a great way to learn to be bad at things—and a great way to laugh at ourselves. So this week, we’re grateful for our hobbies—and we’d love to hear about yours! Reply to this post letting us know what fun, silly, joy-bringing thing you’re into right now!
by Allison Kooser | Mar 11, 2022 | +Good Newsletter, The Intro
When I first visited my now-fiancé’s apartment, something immediately caught my eye. It wasn’t the collection of guitars, or even the enviable library of economics books (though that did win him many bonus points).
In one of the rooms of his home, there is a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard wall.
I was awestruck.
For a planner like me, this setup was a dream come true. Think of all the ideas you can hash out! The brainstorming! The calendars! The lists!
It’s a huge blank canvas upon which to craft something beautiful, which we are now using as a repository for wedding ideas.
As I’ve thought more about it, I realize I love the whiteboard wall because it symbolizes the big picture. It represents space and vision and foresight. It’s forward-looking. It’s the very opposite of the day-to-day myopic view of my computer.
And as I start to dream about a wedding, I’m realizing that we in the nonprofit world need to reevaluate the way we do our planning. It’s too nearsighted. Too immediate.
Too much computer, not enough whiteboard.
The urgent tasks in any given day are endless. The “do-this-nows” pile up, leaving us with no margin to think about what’s happening next week, let alone six months from now. No one is going to give you the space to breathe—you have to take it.
It’s up to us to disrupt the pattern and pull ourselves up to a broader view. It’s up to us to take a longer-term look at planning.
When you start arranging a wedding, you can download checklists from Pinterest that tell you what to do 18, 12, 9, 6, 3 months before your event. These guides give you an enormously long on-ramp to your big day so that:
- You stay organized.
- You prioritize the right things first.
- You keep your stress to a minimum.
What if we could achieve those same objectives at work? What if we could use the magic of long-term planning to stay organized, prioritize the right things, and operate stress-free?
Here at Swell+Good, we’re big believers in whiteboard thinking—and we love helping organizations start looking farther ahead on the horizon. We talk about winter when it’s still spring. We know what big holidays and events and campaigns are coming down the pike months in advance. We even built a content calendar template that we’d love to share with you for free! Just reply and let us know you’d like a copy.
It’s not easy to break free from the tyranny of the urgent, but it will make your work—and your stress levels—so much better. The creative brilliance happens when you have time to breathe, think, and brainstorm. If you’re like me, it happens when you’re at the whiteboard.
So give yourself the space and freedom to think big-picture, dream forward, and plan long-term. (Literally carve out the time. Block your calendar. Be ruthless. It’s the only way.) And let us know how we can help!
by Allison Kooser | Feb 10, 2022 | +Good Newsletter, The Intro
This week, as we were scrolling TikTok (yes, we scroll TikTok…), we came across a video that felt a little too true.
Sure, it’s about returning to in-person work—and here at Swell+Good, we’re work-from-home, asynchronous forever. Not applicable to our personal lives, exactly, but the larger point stuck: How many things are we doing just because they’re the things we’ve always done?
Said differently, what are we doing for no reason?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things change. Work dynamics, health guidelines, trends (sourdough, anyone?), and, yes, even our understanding of what is effective.
The thing you were doing yesterday might not work tomorrow.
And that’s ok.
As one of our favorite social scientists says, “People often become attached to best practices. The risk is that once we’ve declared a routine the best, it becomes frozen in time.”
Or, maybe even better, “We laugh at people who still use Windows 95, yet we still cling to opinions that we formed in 1995.”
(Yes, Adam Grant wrote a whole book about rethinking things. You should read it. It’s great.)
A good leader can keep their team moving forward. One who prioritizes growth over being right. One who knows that sometimes, even great ideas and practices have to get scrapped because they’ve reached their lifespan.
Instead of relying on “best practices,” let’s build processes and policies that work for the future. Let’s embrace innovation and shake things up. Listen to the dissenters. Consider the options. Be willing to toss something when it’s no longer working for you.
We’re learning this right along with you and dedicating time to reevaluating our behaviors. (Because, wow, is it easy to let things happen instead of making them happen when you don’t carve out time to think about it!) We want to be intentional with our strategies, practices, and calendars—and we invite you to do the same!
Let us know what you’ve reconsidered recently—and what you’re scrapping in favor of something new!