Category Archives: Work-Life Balance

Our default organizational decision-making model is flawed. Here’s an awesome alternative!

[Image description: A tired orange-striped cat with its eyes closed, on a black background. This kitty is probably tired making decisions in our flawed, top-down decision-making model. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we launch into today’s post, my friend Oz recorded my Guided Meditation for Nonprofit Professionals. Check out Oz’s soothing voice as he guides you to the Land of Sustainability in this free 12-minute relaxation exercise. “Breathe in and out […] Your desk is completely clutter-free and not a coffee-stained dumpster fire of chaos and broken promises.” (Original written meditation here)

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One of the things EDs and CEOs have noticed is that we get “decision fatigue,” and one way it manifests is in our frustration at having to make even small decisions when we’re at home. The other day, for example, my partner (who also directs a nonprofit) was hungry and asked which of two packages of ramen I recommended she eat. I was unable to answer. “I’m torn!” she said, “Just make the decision for me!” I stared at her for several more seconds before hissing like a cat and scampering into the living room to hide behind the couch.

Decision fatigue is real, y’all, and it has sometimes led to fights and arguments in our household over the most ridiculous things. (“Which movie should we see?” “Hisssss!”) It is also symptomatic of the weakness in our society’s default decision-making philosophy. This philosophy is basically top-down and hierarchical, where the people who have the most power have the most decision-making authority, even in areas where they have the least amount of knowledge and experience. The ED/CEO makes the final decisions on everything. Staff who challenge the decisions get into trouble. And the board sometimes vetoes the staff’s decisions. Continue reading

Nonprofits, we need to talk about mental health and suicide

[Image description: A bunch of flowers with yellow centers and white petals, likely daisies, resting on a metal railing of some sort. Blurry brown and beige background depicting land and a small patch of light blue sky. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be a little serious, but I hope you will read it and discuss with your team. The recent suicides in the news have made me think about our sector and our responsibility to one another.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine took her life a day after calling me asking to hang out. I would learn later from her mom that she had been dealing with bipolar disorder for a long time, and hid it from her friends and coworkers. I wished that I had been a better friend, that I had known what she was going through, that I had supported her more.

My friend’s suicide made me realize that we have a long way to go when it comes to mental health awareness, even among those of us who are in the nonprofit sector and thus are supposed to be more attuned to the people around us. Because mental health conditions are mostly invisible, our colleagues, friends, and family members may be going through challenges, and we may not be aware of it. Or we may be unintentionally creating an environment where mental illness is stigmatized, leading to further isolation. Continue reading

We need to change our unhealthy attitude about email before civilization collapses

[Image description: Someone sitting at a wooden desk holding an iPhone. on the desk is an open laptop. The image is only focused on the hands, which have purplish nail polish and a golden ring each, and gadgets. Image by William Iven of Unsplash.com]

If you are like me, your email inbox is an overflowing compost pile of festering guilt and existential despair. I get between 150 to 200 emails per day. Sure, half of them are stupid (although, can we really call a discussion thread focused on Netflix’ breathtaking animated series Castlevania stupid?) But that still leaves 75 to 100 messages that actually need a response or some type of action. It’s impossible to get through all of them. Then they multiply, including the “Did you get my last email?” and “Hey, just following up on the email I sent last week” and “The team noticed you’ve been tearing out your hair and cussing a lot lately when opening your laptop. Are you OK?”

No, I’m not OK. You’re not OK! None of us are OK, OK?! Email is out of control! It’s horrible yet addictive yet efficient yet awful! All of us are looking for ways to manage the murky cesspool that is our emails. If you google “email overwhelm,” it’ll come up with 481,000 hits, including hundreds of articles with advice like “only check your emails at designated time” and “create filters to automatically file many messages” and “do what Jeff Bezos does” (Start a multi-billion dollar tech company and hire people to answer your emails). Continue reading

10 creative tips for staying healthy while working at a nonprofit

[Image description: Two bowls of oatmeal or yogurt, maybe tapioca, topped with an assortment of colorful fruit and spices, including strawberries, raspberries, orange wedges, and star anise. Image by Brooke Lark of Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone. Before we tackle today’s topic, here’s some NAF logo merchandize! Apologies for taking so long. Now you can get a t-shirt or hoodie or mug and declare yourself #nonprofitAF. They make great gifts for nonprofit people, or whimsically confusing gifts for everyone else. 

It is the New Year, which means many of us are thinking of ways to improve ourselves. However, that can be challenging when all of us are so busy doing important stuff to make the world better. Stuff like binge-watching season 4 of Grace and Frankie on Netflix while eating an entire family-sized bag of wavy potato chips (Look, you have your way of making the world better, and I have mine).

So here are a few creative tips to help us be healthier while we do nonprofit work. Special thanks to the NAF Facebook community for all the inspiring suggestions, many of which I’ve combined into the ones here: Continue reading

A Call to Inaction: Nonprofits, Give Your Staff a Break

[Image description: A pair of feet in grey plaid slippers, next to a mug of probably hot chocolate with steam rising out of it, a remote control, a pad of white paper, and a phone that’s on. In the background, a fire is active in a red brick fireplace. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Once a while, I do a call to action. For example, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on Grant Advisor lately, or encourage your grantees to do so, please do it! Grant Advisor is like a Yelp for foundations, and everyone who writes a review gets a basket of gluten-free mini muffins*! (*By gluten-free mini muffins, I mean the joy of advancing our sector by increasing transparency and decreasing power imbalance).

This time, though, I am making a call to inaction. I am giving my team and myself the entire week of Christmas off. If your organization can do it, I strongly recommend you to do that as well (or some alternatives to that, as discussed below). Here are several reasons why: Continue reading