Do this fun exercise to focus most on what brings you joy
As the holiday season approaches, many of us are reminded frequently that this is supposed to be a time of joy. Sometimes it’s easy to be thankful and happy about the blessings in our lives — especially if we work in philanthropy!
But sometimes the joy gets squeezed right out of us. Deadlines, overflowing inboxes, people we don’t like to spend time with (whether they are grantees, co-workers or foundation trustees, or family), and frantic year-end meeting. Twenty-two months of COVID certainly hasn’t helped.
When we lose the joy in our work, it shows. We have less energy and enthusiasm to share with our team. Our creativity suffers, as do our relationships with grantees, partners, and even family members.
I believe that the quest for joy shouldn’t be condensed into a few weeks but should be something we all strive for in our work year-round. Here’s a simple way to stop, take a breath, and find your joy now and throughout the coming year:
First, create a list of everything you do — and I mean everything, from strategic planning to preparing for board meetings to grant proposal review. And don’t forget your personal life — getting the groceries, mowing the lawn, caring for elderly parents, and going to your kids’ lacrosse games also take time and energy. Feel free to group your activities into categories if that helps you.
Second, make three columns and label them:
1. Brings me joy (it gives me energy and I never want to let it go)
2. I can delegate (even though I can do it and I might even like doing it)
3. I hate doing (it sucks the life out of me)
Third, for each activity, check the appropriate column. Be honest.
Fourth, circle all the activities that bring you joy. These are the activities on which you should spend 80-100% of your time. Period.
Everything in the “delegate” category can be assigned elsewhere: to an employee, an intern, new software or maybe even someone outside of your organization. Get an assistant. Reorganize your team. Promote someone who would find joy doing this activity, or who doesn’t mind it half as much as you do. Items in the “hate” category should be stopped, changed, delegated or at least reevaluated. Immediately
I do this exercise every year. One year, I realized that there were many communications activities I liked doing and could do — such as posting on social media — but that were taking too much time away from things that I enjoyed even more. I found I could easily delegate these tasks to someone who is better and faster at it than me. I created an entire job description out of the communications-related activities that I could delegate and/or disliked doing. Then I hired a marketing and communications firm to do them.
Now I spend more time doing things that bring me joy, like advising and coaching philanthropy CEOs and ultra-high net worth donors, which helps me stay creative. I spend more time generating new content to help funders increase their impact and less time posting on Hootsuite. And guess what? My social media followers jumped from 20,000 to 70,000 in that year, and I profoundly increased my content creation and dissemination!
By being intentional about what gives us joy (rather than on what just responds to our sense of obligation), we stay engaged in activities that matter the most. We are less distracted from our missions. We can think more creatively about how to change seemingly intractable social problems. We become our best and most productive selves. And we are able to share that joy with others — not just during the holidays but all year long.
If you need help finding your joy, let’s talk! I’d be happy to help you determine what’s holding you back, so that you can focus on what gives you energy, spurs your creative juices, and brings you joy.