Living off the to-do lists of others

I think about writing in my blog often. Sparks of ideas, commentary, thoughts I feel the need to share publicly crop up throughout my days. But, I cave to that unrelenting, never-ending to-do list, most often spurred on by the emails on others.

Over the weekend, I read a tip on how to achieve greater productivity at work. It cited that clearing out one’s Inbox was not actually a demonstration of productivity. Emails have become the evidence that we are busy! Look at this Inbox full of messages awaiting my response. I must address them immediately!

This is so far from the truth. Emails are noise – distracting us from being fully engaged in the present, from being able to concentrate, to be creative, and to give ourselves over to projects fully.

I’m an email hawk. So is my partner. So is my boss. It creates this firestorm of rapid response, driving up non-necessary tasks to top of mind, crowding out space in the brain where truly more important work should be holding prime real estate.

Similarly, I have seen this unfold within my mind as I attempt to meditate. There are days when I find it immensely difficult to concentrate solely on my breath. To acknowledge when thoughts seep in but gently push them to the side. The constant barrage of pinging leaves me anxious, on edge. I don’t want to feel like that – live like that. I want to be in a space of calm. I want to be in an environment where I allow myself the time to immerse myself into a project, a problem, an opportunity without interruption.

First things first: I need to keep that Inbox tab closed.

Let’s see how today goes. As with most things in this life, it’s about developing healthy habits. 30 days feels like a long time.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to co-present with my friend and fellow YNPN’er Ivan Canada  on the topic of board developing. We named our workshop “Building a Strong Team” and laid out nine different areas for consideration when establishing a nonprofit or community organization’s leadership hub. One area that we pressed collectively centered around the importance of board culture. As Ivan so brilliantly stated during our presentation: “Whether you know what it is or not, your board has a culture.”

What’s the culture of your organization? As the chair of a nonprofit Board of Directors and as a junior staff in an established organization, i think about culture daily. Partly because creating a welcoming, inclusive, team-orientated environment is important to me. That’s the type of culture I want. Navigating how and when to take action to shape the culture is more challenging.

As a young leader, I think that my fellow Millennials have not only the willpower but the voice to redefine the culture of the nonprofit space. We talk a lot about this on our YNPN Triangle NC board. Even as an organization driven by young leaders, we still stumble in establishing the right procedures and mechanisms to foster the culture we seek. Fortunately, we don’t merely shrug off our missteps or hide them under the rug. We have open, honest, and transparent conversations into how we can do better. This is rare in the nonprofit space. It’s so much easier and less painful to simply say “let’s continue with how things are because that has worked.”

Rocking the boat can make folks a little sea sick or stumble around on their unsure footing. But you know what: that’s a good thing. We’ve become far too comfortable in maintaining the status quo. At YNPN Triangle NC’s #NonprofitSTRONG summit earlier this year, Atrayus Goode, the keynote and executive director of Movement of Youth, asked the 200 nonprofit professionals in the room: what social ills have our sector actually solved? He cited the billions of dollars raised and re-invested in communities to address issues ranging from food insecurity to public education to health care.

What have we solved?

What happens if we don’t solve these issues?

What will our communities look like in 50 years?

Will there be blog posts asking these same questions?

My hope, for the final question, is no.

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