Grant Writing Busy Seasons & Self Care

I’m right in the middle of my busy grantwriting season (yes, I understand the irony of posting to the blog for the first time in six months while I’m drowning in work!) and this round, in my 10th or so year of full-time grantwriting, I have been paying attention to some specifics that help and hinder my writing and productivity at times like these. So, in no particular order:

  • Don’t attempt to multitask. We believe we’re great multitaskers, that we can capably switch between multiple things and get our work done faster, more efficiently, or more completely. Unfortunately, this is complete nonsense. Multitasking is Not A Thing. For many years I fully believed I was the best multitasker ever, but recently I’ve been consciously paying attention to how multitasking goes for me, and the more I try to do it, the more frazzled I get, the more items I miss, and the worse my overall product is.

  • Make Lists. I do very well when I make COPIOUS lists. I tend to make a paper To Do list at the beginning of each workday, actively use them (adding things, crossing off) and often in the busiest times I’ll remake them at the end of the day as well. This helps me to ensure I don’t forget things, and gives me relief from the nagging sense that I have to do something—if it’s on my list, I’ll get to it. I tend to place items on my list by priority, and I don’t worry about including things that are short term vs. long term—it all goes in the same place so it’s not in the back of my mind bugging me.

  • Enforce strict work/life boundaries. I don’t have my cell phone number on my email signature, and I don’t give it to my project staff unless absolutely necessary. Some of that is a holdover from my social work training where it’s critical that clients only have professional access to their clinicians/therapists, but some of it is just plain old good elf-care. I answer emails during business hours only as a personal general rule (unless it is a truly urgent situation). It’s incredibly easy for the lines to blur during peak grant activity periods, and I find that nobody else is going to identify that line for me, I have to do it for myself, and I have to rigorously enforce it for myself.

  • Find your personal self-care go-to’s, and practice them regularly. For me, I tend to read a lot more during my busy seasons (something about reading books is a great antidote to the cognitive work of writing a whole lot), currently I’m reading Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), Catherine Price’s How To Break Up With Your Phone, Samantha Irby’s Meaty, Jen Sincero’s You Are A Badass, and Ray Dalio’s Principles. I listen to podcasts (Forever 35, You Made It Wierd, My Brother My Brother And Me, A Single Serving Podcast, and Love Letters are in my current heavy rotation). I train at my gym at least 4 times a week, as I’ve written about before, weightlifting is my favorite thing. I try to get out into nature as often as possible—having a dog that needs twice daily walks is wonderful, as is getting out for weekend hikes and camping trips. Do the things that help you relax, re-center, and recharge.

  • Lean on your supports. My friends are great sounding boards for me during the particularly busy times when I need to vent about work. I also serve as their support and listening ear whenever they need that from me. While it’s tempting, I try to avoid gossipy discussions with my colleagues.

  • Say no to the things you can’t reasonably accomplish. This applies to work as well as outside commitments during busy times. I only have so much bandwidth, it serves nobody if I fail to recognize where the reasonable limits are on my time and my resources.

These are just a few of the most important things for me during my busy times. For many years, I’d put my head down and slog through these times without paying much attention to how my thinking, behaviors, and actions were serving me or not—stress is great at forcing us to hyper-focus and ignore the big picture. I have found over the last couple of years that drawing back my energy, paying conscious attention to the things that are working as well as the things that are creating more issues has helped me to construct my work time and my personal time in a productive way during the periods of high activity and high demand. Best of luck to you if you’re in the middle of the busy season, too! We can get through it, and remember that it won’t last forever!

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Hey nonprofit pros...get a hobby! Musings on how Weightlifting has saved my sanity.

Today marks 10 days out before I compete in my first national-level Olympic Weightlifting competition (cue the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone face). I'm a bit terrified, but I'm also excited, and I feel as prepared as I could be for this event. I started weightlifting just about a year and a half ago, and going from not knowing the movements at all to competing at the American Open within that timeframe is--insane.

The short version of my journey to becoming an athlete is: 3 years ago I switched to a Ketogenic lifestyle & lost a bunch of weight, 2 years ago I decided to start strength training to continue to improve my health, 6 months in I saw the folks in my gym having lots of fun doing Oly & decided to give it a whirl--I got addicted immediately, competed in local meets held by my gym, and a couple of months ago I decided to give the AO a shot, since it'll be held in Las Vegas and I just barely squeaked out a qualifying total to enter the meet.

Weightlifting has become a surprisingly necessary outlet for me in the very short time I've been doing it. The reasons I love it are plentiful: It takes thousands upon thousands of repetitions and long, long, LONG periods of training to improve significantly in both technique and strength, I'm constantly battling myself mentally & physically, as well as battling gravity & physics (fun!), my only competition is myself, and it demands utter focus and concentration (lifting literally drives out all other thought--turning my brain off is one of the best outcomes of training for me). It also doesn't hurt that the gym I train at is filled with wonderful, supportive, kind, funny, smart, wickedly cool people with whom it is a pleasure to spend many hours a week training. 

For me, weightlifting provides some essential self-care: it allows me to set goals for myself and then put the work in towards achieving them, it forces all of the noise and frustration of the day out of my head each time I train, it consistently reminds me that perfection is unattainable but I should strive for improvement, it teaches me to work through small problems like minor twinges and address bigger ones like injuries, and it helps me prove to myself again and again that I possess more grit and determination than I ever realized before. 

I have other self-care practices that facilitate balance, growth, and sanity in my life, but I have never been an athlete--by any stretch of the imagination--before finding weightlifting. This sport has helped me to grow personally, and it has also provided an outlet for me overall--I can channel my energy and frustration in ways I couldn't before. 

My point is: find yourself a hobby. It's cliche, but it's true. I firmly believe that we each need to find the activities or practices that allow us to keep going in the face of difficult circumstances and challenges, manage our stress, and help us to keep showing up to do the important work we do. There's a mindset in the nonprofit sector that self-care is self-indulgent, or that the importance of the work we're doing should outweigh our own needs, which is damaging and untrue. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way many times throughout my career: I need to be actively doing things for myself in all areas of my life to help avoid burnout, bolster my resources, and recommit to the work I deeply believe in. Find your thing! Do your thing! 

Lifting baby weight in my first local meet :)  Image © Crystal Kreutz 2017, Stronger Than Yesterday, https://www.strongerthanyesterday.com/

Lifting baby weight in my first local meet :)

Image © Crystal Kreutz 2017, Stronger Than Yesterday, https://www.strongerthanyesterday.com/