Keeping It In Perspective

Travel, I find, does not concentrate my mind.  I’m currently in London for 6 weeks and having the hardest time thinking coherent thoughts.  I have a fair amount of work for clients and two workshops to prepare for before this 6 weeks is up, and while I know I am too obsessive not to get it all done, I am having difficulty knuckling down and focusing on my work. It’s kind of like when you are faced with a massive grant or the Spring Gala or the Winter whatever and doing anything else just seems beyond you.  Which is not a disaster if you are a multi-person development office.  But when, like me, you are IT ALL, it can turn into a catastrophe.

After all, the major donor prospects you are trying to move further along toward making that gift are not going to understand that you have to ignore them for the next 6 weeks at least, and your Board members won’t be happy if you are not returning their calls.  And let’s not even mention keeping up with the thank you letters, reports to the foundations whose grants have been made…or that bequest program you have trying to implement for the past year and a half.

Keeping all the balls in the air is hard at all times.  It feels impossible when there is something larger than normal or out of the ordinary looming overhead.  And yet, you do have to get it all done.

So what do I do?  Easy.  First I panic.  Really.  Get it all out and over with.  My husband usually bears the brunt of this—but he is an engineer and good at simply blinking at emotion.  Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am an adult and a professional and really, I can get all this done.

The first step is figuring out what all this really is.  Although I am far more verbal than visual, getting it written down where I can see it really helps.  In my office, I have an easel with flip pad, and that is a terrific way for me to see what I’ve got to do.  Here I’ll use legal pads.  What I typically discover is that what seems so overwhelming in my mind really isn’t so daunting.

The next step is to put due dates next to all my items.  That way I make sure I am don’t miss a deadline and that I am working on things in a reasonable order.

Of course, I should simply keep this kind of work list all the time. And I do always mean to but well, life and all gets in my way.  So I get overwhelmed and just a bit crazed.  Maybe that’s all to the good because when I do take back the control I find that I am somehow more energized.  I see things more clearly and, frequently, find more creative directions.

Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to build their resource development capacity and be more productive.  To learn more, go to