New lines, next thoughts

You settle into your desk/cafe corner/bean bag on the first official work day of the new year. You take note of the heap of unopened (or unanswered emails). You’re sighing as you scan the fragments of half-scribbled to-do lists on various pieces of paper. You have lingering mental reminders of unfinished business that could not be completed before the end of last year.

You are undaunted in your determination is to start this year on a fresh note. You give yourself a faint laugh as you wonder if you really shouldn’t just delete everything in the inbox and toss everything in the recycling bin. (It is a legimate clean slate, after all! No better way to jumpstart the new year!). Your conscience nags at your senses. You regain your composure and focus as you contemplate the various ways to begin the next new year for your organization.

December’s financial matters weigh on your mind. Yes, your team really worked hard to finalize everything before the end of last year. But most of that depends on other external forces.

As you think about more pragmatic approaches to balance the budget and ensure financial stability for the upcoming year, you wonder about staff dynamics and team cohension. You’re proud of how far you’ve come, how much progress you’ve made together. As you consider everyone’s well-being in advance of the challenges ahead, you’re also wondering if changes are needed in terms of roles and responsibilities. Some people may be leaving, and some people may need to be let go.

Now your’re wondering about gaps and internal challenges that hamper your progress, as you wonder whether to consider offers made months ago by other groups for new projects and initiatives. Maybe it can help secure more funding. Maybe it can help raise the awareness of your organization’s programs and services.

Now you’re checking the calendar for events and meetings you agreed to last year, wondering if they’re really necessary or worth doing. So many meetings online, so many offline chats, and still no sense that anything ever comes from all these conversations and dialogues. You contemplate whether more efficient alternative exist. You wonder whether you have the relationships you need and the community you desire to achieve and sustain your mission and impact goals.

All this and it’s time to write that annual report. Any doubts about current programs and services, and all concerns about this year’s budget soon swirl as you decide to look at the strategic planning notes and action items still pending.

You circle back to why you do what you do, and how much your work matters. Even when you don’t believe it yourself, you have evidence in the form of the success stories and thank-you notes you’ve received. That’s why you’ve started to insert dedicated time each week for yourself to reflect on what works well, what could be improved, what lessons can be carried forward, and identifying specific needs for yourself.

You then think of your own well-being, the promises you made last year for more (if not better) balance between work and life, and among leading the organization and supporting your team. You take a deep breath, and allow your empathy and commitment to rise.

This year, you vow to ensure self-care, peer well-being, and organizational sustainability are essential to the culture. Maybe it’s time to first schedule an all-team meeting, wherever everyone can openly and honestly share their thoughts and ideas for this year, alongside their concerns and needs. Maybe a similar chat is needed with the board. And maybe even one-on-one meetings with your funders and donors to sustain what works, and possibly grow more good works.

The choices you make today need not be momentous or high-stakes. They can be small steps to adjust how things might go for you and your team this year. Clear your head as you clean your desk and inbox. You’re ready to handle the challenges and make this year a success in any number of ways. And you will allow yourself and your team the time and space to appreciate (if not celebrate) your collective efforts, while ensuring more good things follow.

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