Today marks my first year at Swell+Good—and while this past year has been full of changes and challenges, there has been so much personal and professional growth that I am proudly reflecting on. I took a leap of faith when I started this role, entering a different industry, with a new/old team, in a completely remote setting. And even though I encountered some self-doubt, I embraced the challenge, my team, and our work culture, and I learned that it doesn’t have to be crazy at work. (Which was a huge win when compared to previous roles.)
Here are a few other key things I’ve learned…
Starting a new journey, be it professional or personal, can lead to a lot of incredible growth simply by taking that initial risk. Just this year, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, including Q4 fundraising, galas, silent auctions, website redesigns, and even attending a summit on digital fundraising and nonprofit marketing (NIO). That experience, and the year as a whole, has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of the work nonprofits do and how we support them.
How to find balance in work, organize tasks, plan ahead, only worry about what is in my control, and let go of what I can’t have a handle on. All of these concepts, while straightforward, were things I had always struggled with. I previously worked in a hectic industry (pharmaceuticals), which was interesting and professionally challenging, but balance was nonexistent. It felt even more overwhelming because I was onboarded remotely and never really knew or connected with my team or staff. Which leads me to another important realization…
Knowing your peers, understanding their strengths, and cultivating relationships with your coworkers is at the core of great teamwork. As some of you may know, I had worked with Ian and Allison before, so I trusted their direction, vision, and talent—all of which have made Swell+Good grow into what it is today: a small but mighty agency that produces great work, shares great stories, and loves helping our clients reach their campaign goals. We are constantly learning and challenging each other, which is another benefit of working with friends—we know our areas of improvement and we know each other’s potential. Because of our great team, I am happy where I am and I am happy with the risk I took a year ago.
Self-reflection matters. Taking the time to pause, discuss areas of improvement as a team, and assess my own professional progress and growth has allowed me to celebrate my achievements, acknowledge areas for growth, and set new goals. I have learned to embrace both successes and failures as valuable learning experiences, and I am grateful for the opportunities that have shaped me into the professional I am today. Looking forward, I am eager to build upon this foundation—and I encourage you to pause and take a moment to self-reflect, too. Think about where you are, what led you there, what you’re grateful for, and how it could be better.
Last week, I listened to a short podcast from Emily P. Freeman and was inspired. In it, she described her “reading rhythms”—the types of books she reads at various times of the day. For her, mornings are for spiritual books, afternoons are for personal and professional development, and evenings are for fiction and memoir.
First, I love this. I love that it sets you up for reading success, I love that it assumes you are reading multiple (different) things at once, and I love that it feels so true. (It totally resonates that reading a professional development book at night feels weird!)
Second, it clicked with another experiment I’ve been playing with over the past few weeks. Inspired by author and podcaster Laura Tremaine, I’ve been testing a 20-minute reading timer to give myself a way to consume more nonfiction.
You see, I am a big-time reader. Our house is (basically) a library, with floor-to-ceiling built-ins filling three rooms. I have a stack of books I want to read that’s a mile high—but I only have so many hours in the day.
Like Emily, I love reading fiction at night, so that tends to be what I prioritize. For whatever reason, I don’t have trouble making time to plow through romance novels or the latest best-seller.
But I also want to read nonfiction. I know that business and psychology and productivity and creativity books have been hugely helpful for me in the past, but I have trouble prioritizing them within the very real limits of my daily schedule.
I also know that I am better at my job when I make time to grow. I have to invest in inputs if I want to continue producing high-quality outputs. If I want to benefit from the riches of being a lifelong learner, I have to prioritize, well, learning!
Enter: Laura’s 20-minute timer experiment.
Every day, I pick up a nonfiction book and set a 20-minute timer on my phone. I put everything else away (my computer, and even the phone itself!) and read. And then my phone buzzes and I go back to work.
I set out to do this first thing in the morning (and that is still my aspiration), but life sometimes gets in the way. No worries. I can use some of my lunch break, or even an afternoon chunk of my timeboxing.
I’m primarily choosing books that fall into Emily’s “personal and professional development” category—books that will spark thoughts on how to be a better marketer, a better manager, or a better human. And after two weeks, I can safely say that I am learning a lot—and loving this practice.
If you want to test your own 20-minute timer, I asked the S+G team for a few recommendations of nonfiction books that have changed the way they think about life or work. A few ideas:
- Atomic Habits by James Clear, the seminal classic on how to get things done (recommended by Lindsey)
- Range by David Epstein, the book that gave me words around why one of my favorite qualities in people (and employees) is curiosity (recommended by me)
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the book that guided us to develop our unique (and uniquely non-crazy) culture at Swell+Good (recommended by Ian)
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, our go-to guide to creativity (recommended by Lindsey and me!)
Next on my list are The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control by Katherine Morgan Schafler and The Creative Act by Rick Rubin—and I can’t wait to let you know what I learn!
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!
This week, we are thankful for…smart, curious people on TikTok. We have always been big fans of the Wikipedia rabbit hole (you know the one—you start with a simple question and 20 minutes later you are reading about how lettuce grows). Now, we’ve taken our weird curiosities to the next level with TikTok.
There are tons of nerds just like us who are using their social media platforms to share amazing science facts, surprising historical stories, and wild insights about the world and we are HERE FOR IT.
Just this week, we’ve learned that Betsy Ross was born with a full set of teeth, no one knows exactly how eels reproduce, and George Washington was basically accidentally murdered. Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’ll send you links to some of our favorite creators.