The Gift of a Different Rhythm

Caitlin Smith By Caitlin Smith

I struggle with this time of year every single time it comes around. The several-week gap as one fiscal year ends and another begins always puts me on edge. It feels like a hard stop compared to the rush that is the previous months – child abuse awareness month, conference time, grant writing season, wrapping up current grants and projects. The “big things” I’ve been investing so much time and energy into are signed, sealed, delivered. I have to actually think about what to do any given day, as opposed to auto-piloting right into chipping away at a large project. Am I alone in this? I doubt many of you in the social services sector came to this work because you’re easy-going and dislike a real challenge.

What I hear from all sides – colleagues, friends, loved ones – is to “enjoy this while it lasts.” I could scream… but they are right. This pace won’t last forever. And if I let myself sink into it, begrudgingly at first, this new and temporary rhythm at work has its place and does some good. This different daily rhythm allows for more creative thinking, better collaboration, and doing those smaller tasks that will turn down the white noise that surrounds busier times.

Once I let go of that to-do-list-crushing-machine vibe that I thrive on, the creative-and-strategic part of my mind kicked into high gear. I didn’t realize how quiet it had been recently. In this new pace, there’s a call here, and an email there about something someone brought up months ago that we never really returned to. Those tiny seeds of ideas have yet to have a timeline, a structure, or funding. With that new space to focus, though, those back-burner ideas are finally getting a fair shake at coming to fruition. In the summer lull there is so much more space for partnership, authentic discussion about collaboration, and my ability to actually absorb it. What felt like a non-starter last month feels like an opportunity now.

This is also the time for being mindful of my habits and environment. I’m making a real effort to sit at the table with coworkers or go to yoga during lunch rather than becoming a social media zombie for half an hour. A slower pace offers the opportunity to check in with your surroundings, and how you interact with it, to make those little adjustments that bring renewal and make the next wave of business that much easier. I’m even taking the time to edit template presentations that I give time and time again to be just a little better next time.

I’ll never love the early-summer pace in nonprofit world, but I also recognize that an effective nonprofit needs both execution and vision from its employees. When I let go and give into this pace, the framework of “looking for the next thing to do” moves from this hour, to this next year, to five years from now. Today’s slow pace will become next month’s to-do list, the leisurely coffee with a colleague could become the next big project, and so on. This time is necessary to refine my focus and ground myself back in my organization’s mission. It’ll be July of next year before I know it.

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