Sometimes it feels like time is going so fast that a week or even a month has gone by and I have no idea how it happened.  Do you ever feel like that?
Our world seems like it’s speeding up every year.  Faster connection rates, quad-core processors, 4G LTE cell coverage… as the words leave your lips, they travel around the globe and back.
If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is tune into TV Land on your super fast FIOS network and watch a sitcom from the 60’s or 70’s.  Notice the dialogue.  It’s about as slow as molasses.  Or, at least it seems that way to our “modern” brains.
We are conditioning ourselves to want it yesterday.  It has to be done fast and there is no time to wait.
I have to admit, I love all this new technology and the speed of communications.  I see it as a great benefit to my work.  But there is a “dark side” to all of this speed.  That dark side is that I have become accustomed to going so fast and hard that many times I don’t take time to reflect on what I’m actually doing or where I’m going.
I feel that if I do slow down or pause I’m going to miss out on something…an important e-mail, a request from a client, a new opportunity.  Sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about all this.
It’s not good.
This is why in this new year, I’m committing myself to take time off for reflection and slow down.  And I’m asking you to come with me on the journey.
It’s not going to be easy.  I’m conditioned, like you are, to “keep it going.”  But I also find that many folks in the non-profit world have this sense that if they don’t keep going the world is somehow going to fall apart.
Non-profit work is hard, not just because of the “work” side of it.  There’s the added pressure of feeling that if the work doesn’t get done the mission will not get accomplished.   Something bad could happen, whether it be animals not getting adopted, hungry people not getting fed, or someone actually dying because we didn’t get to them in time.
I’m not sure there is anything so physically, emotionally or spiritually draining as working for a non-profit.  This is why taking time to pause and reflect everyday is so vitally important to your health.
Richard and I have seen first hand the damage it has caused folks.  I’ve known good people who, after working in the non-profit sector for as little as five years, look as though they have been to war and back.
Is any of this resonating with you?  I know it is because in talking with folks like you over the past several years, this seems to be a growing problem.   And with the poor economy hitting non-profits hard, both in having to add more services and providing those services with fewer people…well…that is just the makings of a lethal cocktail.
So, what does taking time out to reflect and pause look like in the coming year?  Here are some suggestions for you.

  1. Everyday, take 20-30 minutes to just sit and breathe.  Stop thinking!  Just be.  Anytime of the day is fine, but take this time to not do anything.  It will be really hard at first, but it will get easier.  Hey, even if you start with just 5 minutes a day…that’s a great beginning.
  2. In the middle of your day, take five minutes to stop what you are doing and listen to what is going on around you.  Be aware of others, sounds, and your thoughts.
  3. Every morning, as you start your workday, write down everything that is on your mind that you HAVE to do. Put your list on paper or in your smart phone. Writing it down releases the power it has over you and frees up your brain.
  4. At the end of every month, spend an hour reflecting on all you have accomplished, celebrate it and let it go.
  5. Once a year, take a 2-day personal retreat.  Go off to cabin in the woods, retreat center or your favorite hotel and just relax and get away.  This allows for self-reflection and gives your body time to slow down.
  6. Take all of your vacation time.  I’ve known people who work for non-profits who have almost a year of vacation time racked up.  That is insane.  You have to take time off to allow yourself to re-energize.

This year can be the year of creating balance for you and me.  That balance can only be achieved with taking time out to pause and reflect.  As you take more and more time for reflection it will allow you to move toward figuring out what is most important in your life.  And it will help you to be more focused, actually help you get more accomplished, and make yourself a happier person.  Say “yes” to more reflection in the new year.
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