Editor's Note: this post has been re-blogged with the author's permission. It was originally posted on the author's blog September 18, 2014.
By Sonya Collins, Atlanta-based independent journalist covering health care, medicine, & biomedical research. Find out more about Sonya.
Yesterday, I read an article that said the most productive workers take breaks often. To be precise, they take a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes worked. I’m a work-from-home freelancer, and I always have at least a half-a-dozen assignments on my plate, and a list of at least that many tasks I must complete for each of them. Without the rhythms of an office, co-workers, and meetings to structure my days, I’m always on the lookout for the latest evidence on how to be more productive.
For health purposes, not so much for productivity, I had tried to adopt the habit of standing up for five minutes every 60-90 minutes. I used StandApp on my iPhone, which sounds an alarm every 60 minutes (or 90 if you choose), then shows you a five-minute exercise video to do during your break. It’s pretty funny because the man and woman who do the exercises are standing in a poorly lit, cramped cubicle in business clothes, and they use their desk or shelf for support during certain exercises. But I got pretty bored, pretty quickly with this routine. I think it was because the breaks were so short that they seemed almost pointless. They didn’t give me time to do anything useful, like cook lunch or clean my bathroom. And at the same time, they seemed to come around too often. I felt like I couldn’t get anything done before the alarm went off. Eventually, I found myself going through one set of the exercises and then leaning over my desk working for the rest of the break till the phone told me I could sit back down again. If the stand-up alarm went off when I was in the middle of something, I wouldn’t press play on the exercise video, and the app would stop running and that would be the end of my healthy desk habits for the day. Finally I quit using the app.Read more
Published September 10, 2014
By Tavia Holloway, YNPN Atlanta Member
YNPN Atlanta hosted its first “Coffee with an Expert” series on August 15, 2014, and I was one of five fortunate people to be chosen to attend. “Coffee with an Expert” gives YNPN members the rare opportunity to engage with community leaders in a small group setting. The always-amazing and ever-energetic Ann Cramer graciously gave of her time and discussed how passion, professional expertise, personal preferences, pride, and fit are critical in understanding yourself and knowing where you work best. Here are some of my take-aways from what she shared that day:
- Passion – Doing your job isn’t enough. It’s important to actually care about what you do.
- Professional expertise
- What skills and expertise do you bring?
- What skills do you want to grow?
- How and where will you grow those skills?
- What is your growth plan?
- Personal preferences – Personal preferences matter, so don’t overlook them.
- Pride – It’s one thing to have passion for an organization, but you should also be proud of what you do because you sell the brand and wear the brand every day.
- Fit – If the culture isn’t right or you don’t fit, it won’t work for you.
The opportunity to participate in “Coffee with an Expert” is one of the many benefits you receive as a member of YNPN Atlanta. For more information on other benefits and how to join, go here. YNPN Atlanta’s next event is the NextGen Breakfast on October 23rd at the Commerce Club. The breakfast is like “Coffee with an Expert”, but on a larger scale. It includes a seated breakfast and keynote address. This year’s address will be given by Lisa Borders of The Coca-Cola Company. The best part of the breakfast is you get to choose your own table – hosted by a member of the nonprofit community - ou can even choose to sit with Ann Cramer! While you don’t have to be a member to attend, members do get early access to choose their table and purchase a ticket. Hope to see you there!
[lightbox src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIABo0d9MVE"][button] Watch the Video! [/button][/lightbox]Experts can rely on their, well, expertise and reputation to keep people listening; unfortunately, most of us at the beginning of our careers don’t have that luxury. I frequently present to or train people who may not know my organization, let alone me. So what steps do I take to keep people engaged? Below are some tips I try to follow:
Give yourself time!This is one of the biggest and easiest mistakes to make. My more esteemed colleague requires 8 hours of preparation for every hour of presentation. If you are speaking on a topic you haven’t presented before, you may need more time than that. When you set aside this time, it’s important to take the opportunity to:
- Spell it out by creating an outline
- Looks are everything - make sure your information catches the audience
- Get the audience involved through activities or engagement
- Test it out with a dry run beforehand
Spell it outIf you’re writing a paper, you create an outline – why not do that for a presentation as well? At our company, we define the items listed below:
- Brief description: If this presentation is to be listed on a flyer or in a program, how would it be described?
- Learning Objectives: When the presentation is complete, what do you want them to walk out knowing?
Looks are everythingYou don’t need to be a graphic designer to have a slick-looking presentation. You just need to follow some simple rules. This set of slides says it all much better than I can:
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I’ve summarized the points below:
- Too much info
- Not enough visuals
- Bad quality
- Overwhelming visuals
- Lack of prep (hmmm… was that mentioned previously?)
Get the audience involvedDo presentations you attend often have the obligatory Q&A session at the end of the session? Is this typically the only interaction the presenter has with the audience? If you’re nodding yes, then more audience involvement is key!
The question is how? There’s many ways of creating engagement. The simplest form of engagement is to poll the audience on a topic or a point you make in the presentation. It’s also a great way for you to get feedback instantly! You may also want to incorporate an opening activity, sometimes called an ice breaker, and a closing activity.
Test it outDry runs help work the kinks out of presentations. If the presentation is for a group outside of your office, invite your coworkers to a brown bag lunch and ask them for pointers (cookies or other forms of dessert can be a great bribe). You can also use someone who’s completely unfamiliar with the topic, such as a friend, roommate or significant other. If you can’t get your point across to them, there’s a distinct possibility that the presentation is not effective.
Lastly…Don’t beat yourself up! Whether it’s before, during or after the presentation, be confident. It’s okay to say you don’t know something, but don’t apologize for it.
~Lauren Westmoreland, YNPN Atlanta Marketing Committee Member
As young professionals, we’re often thrown into things at work and expected to run with them. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – having to figure things out on our own and implement them without previous experience represents an incredible growth opportunity. With that growth, though, will also come mistakes.
The other day, I made a mistake at work. The details aren’t really important – it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was definitely something that I was completely responsible for. The ensuing phone call with my supervisor was more than awkward, and I had to act immediately to handle the situation. I think the four steps I went through may well serve as a framework for the future – and though I’d like to think I’ll never make a mistake at work again, that would be completely unrealistic.
Step One – Investigate:
Before rushing to any conclusions, you should look back at what happened. Learn where the error was made and why, and see if there is something you may have overlooked. Perhaps the mistake wasn’t yours – maybe a name was listed wrong in a document, or your instructions were wrong. Either way, you need to know what happened.
According to the Independent Sector, the estimated value of volunteer time in Georgia is $20.77/hr. That’s an incredible amount of worth that these individuals are providing for organizations that are operating as cost efficiently as possible.
During National Volunteer Week (and really, throughout the year), find some time to recognize the volunteers who help your organization thrive. Here are some ways you can acknowledge those individuals:
- Handwritten Thank You Cards – With the noise of email and social media, some volunteers, especially ones of older generations, would prefer more personal and individual forms of gratitude. Handwritten cards, notes, and letters can show your volunteers that you took the time out to craft the message to them.
- Make a video or photo slideshow – Along with writing a note, if you have long term volunteers or ones that help at major events or fundraisers, consider creating a video or photo slideshow that highlights not only the event, but those that were on the ground helping to make it all run smoothly. Make some copies for your volunteers to take home so that they can look back fondly on their service experience and pass it along to others, which can help your organization retain and recruit new individuals for future events.
- Write a Recommendation – For skills-based or long term volunteers, writing a recommendation, either as a letter or on LinkedIn, that emphasizes the quality of the individual’s work would be a great way to recognize their service. This would also be a good vehicle to highlight the details of the projects the individual worked on and how it contributed to the goals of your nonprofit organization.
- Highlight them on social media – A public (and free!) way to recognize your volunteers would be on social media. You can send a tweet using #NVW, post pictures, or make a video that shows you and your organization’s gratitude to the service these members have contributed. When you tag them on a status, tweet, or other media, their networks will be able to see the post and also recognize the volunteer for the great work they did, while learning more about your organization at the same time!
- Treat them out – The next time your volunteers come to serve, offer to take them out for lunch or coffee. This will be a nice surprise for your volunteers, and it’ll be a great way for you to get to know them on a more personal level. You can learn more about what they’re looking to get out of serving at your organization and how their service fits into other parts of their lives.
Visit VolunteerSpot for other ways that you can say thanks to volunteers during National Volunteer Week. What are some ways your organization has recognized volunteers? Share with us in the comments below!
It’s easy to focus solely on one’s own organization and local issues, but we need to recognize that it’s critically important not to lose sight of the larger sector in which you work (health, arts, education, homelessness prevention, etc), in addition to the nonprofit sector as a whole. This is particularly true for YNPN members, since we are at a relatively early state in our careers – it’s very possible we may move to a new area of the country, or find a job opportunity in an unexpected new field. Keeping up with the latest research, thought leaders, conferences, political and policy issues, and the general state of our sector will best prepare you for whatever may come.
The question then becomes: how does one do this without spending hours upon hours reading every day? That is time we don’t have!
Overall, it’s about discovering the right curators. You can’t read everything, so you have to seek out organizations/people/automated systems that sort through the sea of content available and deliver only the best and most useful items to you. I have a few tips, and I would love to hear your own ideas in the comments.
1. Twitter (especially lists)
Twitter has become my favorite and most reliable place to discover new and interesting tidbits that I find relevant to my life and career. Personally, I choose who I follow very carefully and judiciously, but not everyone shares that habit! Regardless of whether you follow 200 or 2000 people, I recommend creating a Twitter List that includes only those accounts you find interesting professionally. Every couple of days, scroll through that list and see what they have to say. These accounts can include bloggers, professionals, other nonprofits in your field, national nonprofit news sources…but only include those who regularly tweet interesting, relevant content. Check out this info, from Twitter, on how to use their lists feature, and you can find one person’s take on how best to create and manage lists right here.
2. Advocacy Groups
Full disclosure: I have worked and volunteered for advocacy groups for the past 5 years. But they keep their ears to the ground for policy issues and political changes that will potentially affect your organizations, both positively and negatively. Be on their email list and follow them on social media – they will keep you abreast of what you need to know in the political realm. Seek out national organizations as well as state and regional ones.
3. Associations & Other Newsletters
A person can only belong to so many professional associations, and one must choose carefully…but that is a subject for another blog post! You can often get news from professional associations whether you are a paid member or not. Their newsletters will include news articles, opportunities, and developments in the field. Here in Georgia, if you are not signed up for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits email list, get on it today! I also recommend Coxe Curry’s weekly email with news relevant to all nonprofits in the Atlanta area. You can subscribe here.
4. RSS – Searches
RSS Searches: Keeping tabs on specific organizations (especially the one you work for) or keyword searches can be done using RSS feeds from specific sources (such as The New York Times or The Chronicle of Philanthropy) or Google News alerts tailored to your interests.
5. Online bookmarking systems
Finding a system that will allow you to easily bookmark articles/blogs/websites to read or skim later on is key. When you run into things via emails or social media or whatnot, you need a way of saving the good ones for later. PC World just posted a great article on the pros and cons of three systems: OneNote, Evernote, and Google Keep.
In all of these categories, think a little outside the box when searching for sources and curators. Although I have never worked for a museum, I find the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) advocacy email list to be invaluable as a source of clear, reliable information on arts policy and news.
Please share your own tips, tricks, and recommended curators in the comments! This is an issue we’ll all face throughout our careers. Coming up right now with a system that works for you will help you for many years to come!
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No matter what time of year you have your annual performance review, it’s never too early to start preparing. Being properly prepared will help ensure that you have a successful, productive meeting with your supervisor that will help you thrive in your current position and develop as a professional.
Follow these tips to make the most of your next review meeting!
Review your job description and make note of any discrepancies: Read through your job description with a critical eye. Does it properly describe your role within the organization? Make note of any duties you’ve taken on or any projects for which you’ve gone above and beyond your assigned role. Be sure to discuss these with your supervisor as examples of why you are deserving of either more responsibility, a raise, or even a promotion. This is also a good time to look for areas for growth. If there are particular aspects of your job that you really enjoy or in which you would like to take on extra responsibility, you should bring them up during the conversation to help ensure job satisfaction.