Taking Your Business in a New Direction

Today's guest post is by Ashley Jones, founder of Love Not Lost. LNL is an incredible organization that provides free photography sessions to those facing terminal illness, along with grief resources for the people supporting them.

Ashley has made two shifts in her business model over the past few of years, and has done so by listening to her heart and her community. I think she has some valuable lessons to teach us all about change, and how to evaluate our organization's long-term success. Both nonprofits and social enterprises will relate to her inspiring story.

And as you begin the New Year, take her desire for feedback and education to heart and see how you can apply it to your own organization. 

Taking Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise in a New Direction

The New Year mindset can be full of vision, dreaming, and wonder. There is a whole new year ahead to grow, hustle, and reach your dreams. But what if your year doesn't go as planned? What if there is a new direction you need to take? 

As a business owner, your business is your ship and you are responsible for steering it and taking it on the journey you desire. At times, certainly in the startup phase, it can feel overwhelming. Waters are rough, and the path to success may not be as visible as it once was, but you're not alone. You have feedback from your customers or donors, mentors/advisors, and your relationships within your network to help guide you. Have you been cultivating these relationships? Are you asking for advice? Are you listening to what they say? 

Launching a Business

After losing my daughter to a terminal diagnosis in 2011, I started my own photography business to help get me out of bed every morning. I knew just enough to get me out into open waters, but quickly realized I was in trouble. I spent way too much money and effort on marketing, and I didn't have a good pricing structure. I knew I needed help. At that time, I didn't have any mentors or advisors and felt like I was alone. But I dove into business resources like GrowthLab and CreativeLive, and read books like Good to Great by Jim Collins and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. 

In the first year, I learned a lot of hard lessons and grew into a better person while navigating grief. Brene Brown, Ramit Sethi, and photography experts like Lindsay Adler and Jerry Ghionis became my online mentors. And I asked my clients what I could do better, and truly listened to their complaints. It was really hard, but I was better for it. I also looked to my network to build relationships where we could help each other succeed. Each connection and relationship propelled me forward.  

Over the next several years, I would continue to grow as a person and a business woman, which included donating sessions to people facing a terminal diagnosis as a way to love it forward. Although I was doing wedding and portrait photography, and was successful with it, my heart ached for more. I knew that the sessions I gave away to suffering families filled my soul in a way nothing else could. I new I needed to change direction. 

It's not always easy to change direction with business. It's very likely people will challenge you, they might even get upset, and it will take some time to establish the change as your new normal. 

Keep moving forward.

A New Direction for My Business

I had a vision for a nonprofit that would photograph people facing a terminal diagnosis to preserve memories and support people in grief. I knew this would be an amazing gift for so many people in the world. Some of my clients were upset that I was no longer going to be able to photograph their family. Some photographers told me my idea would never work. Some really successful people told me it wasn't a smart business move and that I should just keep doing what I was doing or do something else altogether. 

There will always be people telling you why things won't work or how dumb something is, but it's up to you to prove them wrong. I started Love Not Lost anyway, and launched in the spring of 2016. With the help of some friends in the event industry, we pulled together a launch party and were able to raise $20,000 to get started. 

We've only been gaining momentum since then. The first year, I traveled all over the nation to photograph people to prove this was a valid concept and show the need for it. In 2017, we worked on building a scalable model that we have implemented in Atlanta. Our focus is on building a network of photographer volunteers, partnering with hospices and hospitals in the greater Atlanta area, and adding a Director of Operations to our team to manage the photographer program. As we've been doing this and serving applicants, we've been listening to our feedback. 

 

Expanding Our Focus

Everyone loves the photo sessions and books, but people we photograph tell us their friends and family often have a hard time supporting them, and they're left feeling alone and abandoned. We've heard our supporters and donors tell us they want to help, but they don't know how. We have seen and experienced this huge gap in grief support and we want to make it better. 

In 2018, in addition to continuing our photographer program growth in Atlanta, we will be adding grief resources and tools to help individuals show up for the people in their lives who are hurting. We'll have empathy cards, photo gift sessions, and a few other things offered on our website. This wasn't a part of our original plan, but it's a new shift in the direction because we listened to the people we were serving and the people in our community. It's a need that is not being met that we can meet. 

As you go forward, no matter what it is you are doing in the world to bring value, I challenge you to listen to the pain. Listen with empathy, not judgement or defensiveness. Where are people hurting or suffering? Where are there problems within your business and industry? What can you do to make them better? Where are you uniquely gifted to meet the needs that aren't being met by anyone else? 

And remember, growth is usually never easy. As a business owner, it's hard not to take negative feedback personally. Expect the growing pains and know it's making you bigger, better, and stronger for the future. I wish you all the best in the New Year! 


Ashley Jones, founder of Love Not Lost

After losing her daughter to Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Ashley started two companies, Shutter Sweet Photography and Skylight Creative Group, to keep her going. She's always had a heart for serving others, so donating portrait sessions to people facing a terminal diagnosis just made sense after what she had been through. When donated sessions became a regular occurrence, Ashley realized the need was great and Love Not Lost was born. You can find LNL on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



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Ashley Jones of Love Not Lost has made two shifts in her business model over the past few of years, and has done so by listening to her heart and her community. I think she has some valuable lessons to teach us all about change, and how to evaluate our organization's long-term success. Both nonprofits and social enterprises will relate to her inspiring story.

Kristi Porter, founder at Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Resolutions and Goal Setting

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For January, I've invited Robert Carnes to talk about resolutions and goal setting. There's no better time for a fresh start than the New Year!

Ask the Experts: Resolutions and Goal-Setting

People have been setting New Year’s resolutions probably as long as there have been new years. Nearly as frequent as the resolutions is giving up on said resolutions. There’s something intoxicating about a fresh start that makes people unrealistic about their own expectations, but even with the best of intentions, they typically don’t last.

Most people just give up making resolutions altogether—and frankly, that’s better than kidding yourself every 365 days. However, there are better ways to launch yourself into the New Year and actually accomplish something in 2018.

Let's talk about how you can realistically set and accomplish your goals this year.

 

Q. What are the latest trends in annual goal setting?

A. The most popular New Year’s Resolutions in 2017 were essentially the same as they’ve always been—eat healthier, exercise more, get organized, spend less, and travel. Basically, people are always going to seek the same things to improve their lives.

One trend I’ve heard about recently is setting smaller, shorter-term goals. Rather than trying to set a resolution for the entire year, make one for each quarter that stands alone, or adds up to a larger goal. Three months is a more manageable scale for most people compared to 12 months.

This also allows you to reevaluate your goals every quarter, rather than annually. Continually monitoring your progress helps you to be more flexible and accountable. Start small and win big.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making with New Year’s resolutions?

A. Unrealistic expectations. New Year’s couldn’t come at a worse time. Every year, it’s scheduled right after New Year’s Eve—a night everyone intentionally stays up late and indulges. No one wants to get up early and work hard on January 1—so you’re already off to a bad start.

Instead of a sweeping gesture to make ourselves feel better in the moment, it’s much better to set goals we can actually follow through on. So, set a less ambitious goal that you can expand on later. These are practices you can turn into habits, rather than burning out by February.

In his book Finish, Jon Acuff recommends cutting your goal in half. So, if you want to write 30 blog posts this year, set your expectation at writing 15 posts. Because writing 18 posts by the end of the year is better than getting overwhelmed, giving up early, and not writing any at all.

 

Q. What is your best piece of advice?

A. Make your goal something you actually want to accomplish. Are you setting goals out of guilt or peer-pressure? If so, odds are that you won’t actually achieve them. Internal, positive motivation is much more powerful than guilt.

But even goals you enjoy can lose their flavor over time. So inject some fun into the mix to prevent burnout. Celebrate small victories. Reward yourself for hitting benchmarks. Involve other people to keep you accountable and motivated.

Remind yourself why you’re pursuing this goal in the first place. If it’s something you enjoy and truly desire, that should help keep your attention focused all year long.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

A. Pick one small thing to accomplish towards your goal. Instead of trying to run a marathon, start with the first mile. Instead of writing a book, write a blog post. Often, people fail to meet their goals because they get overwhelmed and can’t see any progress.

Giving yourself smaller, attainable steps builds momentum towards a larger achievement. It’s also much easier to know what you’ll be able to finish this week, rather than by the end of the year. Don’t worry about staying perfect—focus on finishing what you can do today.

 

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. The most important thing is consistency. A small habit maintained over time can lead to big things. Goals come and go, but habits stick around.

The key to making a difference in your life is creating sustainable practices that have a positive cumulative effect. Do good work that will allow you to do even more good work in the long term.

And one of the best ways to keep a good thing going is not quitting when it’s no longer perfect. If you miss writing a blog post or scheduling your social media next week, don’t give up entirely. Give yourself a pass and prepare to get back on track. You’re never going to be perfect—focus instead on being better.

 

6. Do you have any resources that would be helpful so people can learn more?

  • Jon Acuff has become an expert on achieving goals. His 30 Days of Hustle online course was one of the reasons I was able to publish my first book last year.

  • Another great resource from Jon Acuff is his new book I mentioned earlier, Finish. It’s all about ignoring perfectionism and getting real work done.

  • Jeff Goins has also got a lot of practical advice and encouragement, especially for writers. His new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, is all about making a living from work you actually enjoy.

  • If you want an example of the extreme, check out Month to Master—one man’s journey to master one new thing every month for a year. Not recommended for everyone, but definitely entertaining.

And here are a few more resources from KP:

Wishing you a joyous and prosperous New Year!


Robert Carnes

Robert Carnes is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. Carnes also works as a managing editor at Orange in Atlanta.



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Let's talk about how you can realistically set and accomplish your goals this year.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Top 5 Blog Posts of 2017

Since I pump out new blog content every week, it stands to reason that you may have missed a post or two in the hubbub of your workdays. But my goal is to continually provide marketing and communication information, resources, tools, and tips for nonprofits and social enterprises—and the people who lead and run them. I do this because I want to see you get noticed and grow.

However, if you're short on time and playing catch-up, I've done the hard work and narrowed it down to this year's top five posts. So, grab some coffee, a snack, and start reading . . . 

Signify's Top 5 Blog Posts of 2017

1. A COMPARISON OF 13 POPULAR SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING TOOLS

Even as a marketer, I know that I should be marketing my blog posts much more than I am actually writing them, but they both have to get done, so my time is always split. It's a common frustration many of us share, right?

There are, of course, a lot of ways to get traffic to your site, but for most of us, the day in and day out formula revolves around social media. And if you spend several hours writing a blog post, but only promote it on social media a couple of times, it could easily go to the internet graveyard. #RIP

So, what's the solution? I think it might be a social media scheduling tool, especially if you do not have someone who is solely dedicated to your social media strategy. There are a lot of popular options out there, and I took the time to review 13 of them. None were perfect (though some come close!), and several were quite similar, but I think you'll find some great choices for your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Read the full post . . . 

 

2. 8 WAYS YOU'RE SABOTAGING YOUR LAUNCHES (AND HOW TO FIX THEM!)

Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time and resources, not to mention oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. After all, you don't have time to waste. I know this because I know many others like you, and you've got too much on your plate for missed opportunities.

But what happens when a launch is just okay? Or maybe it's good, but it wasn't as good as you'd hoped. Or, sadly, what if it flops? (FYI, even successful launches have room for improvement.)

No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, I've observed a number reasons throughout my career in marketing, PR, and events (among other things) that may be causing you to unconsciously sabotage your launches. I'll touch on eight of them here. But don't worry, there is hope! I'll also show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.

Read the full post . . .

 

3. WHAT YOU NEED TO CONVINCE POTENTIAL SPONSORS AND PARTNERS

Whether you're a nonprofit or for-profit social enterprise, chances are that you're on the hunt for a corporate sponsor or partner. It could be for a long-term initiative, upcoming event, or special campaign. 

And why wouldn't you be? Corporate sponsors and partners bring in new revenue, as well as a new audience that is potentially untapped by your organization or cause. The benefits to you are crystal clear.

However, have you stopped to think about what you bring to the table? There's plenty in it for the companies you're asking as well. Never sell yourself short.

These kinds of collaborations are called "cause marketing," and friends, I have really good news. There is no better time for it, and I'm about to tell you why. The bad news is that you may have the wrong approach.

Read the full post . . . 

 

4. 10 TOOLS TO MAKE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS LOOK MORE PROFESSIONAL (MOST ARE FREE!)

I'm not sure running a small business will ever get easier, because I don't really know anyone, anywhere, at any size company who wishes they had more to do. But when you have a larger team, you at least have more of a division of responsibility. So, it can be challenging to look like a larger organization when it's just you at a desk in your guest bedroom, or just you and a few friends who decided to jump in and solve one of the world's problems over coffee one afternoon. However, looking more professional, like a large business would, can often mean more sales or donations, more support, sponsors, and more attention. 

So, how do you make that happen? I still have a lot to learn myself, but here are just a few of the tools that help my one-woman show look a wee bit bigger and more professional.

Read the full post . . .

 

5. HOW TO EASILY INVEST IN YOURSELF AND YOUR ORGANIZATION

First of all, I'm not just talking about throwing money at the latest software, or buying fancy computers, or getting team t-shirts, though that would be snazzy. I'm talking about the "deeper" investments for personal and professional growth, which leads to added value and growth for your organization.

When you invest in yourself personally, you knowingly—and unknowingly—apply that new knowledge and experience everywhere around you. So, even then, you're benefitting your organization. And when you invest in yourself for your job, or on behalf of your organization, your directly applying that new knowledge to your role and your cause. Intentionally investing in yourself also often provides renewed energy, focus, determination, know-how, and purpose. So, why not get on board?

Read the full post . . .

 

And those are this year's top five posts! What did you enjoy? Did you have a different favorite?

PSST: Don't forget that you only have a couple more days to try and win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at over $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2018.



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my goal is to continually provide marketing and communication information, resources, tools, and tips for nonprofits and social enterprises—and the people who lead and run them.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


4 Marketing Mistakes I Made in My First 18 Months

The close of 2017 means that I've been in business for 18 months now. Whew—what a ride! Some days it feels like an eternity, and other days it feels like I just opened my shop. And I still get asked a lot what it's like to be an entrepreneur, or generally, "How's business?" My answer is always that it depends on the date and time that you ask me because it's an emotional rollercoaster! There are moments when I think I'm killing it, and moments when I wonder what the heck I'm doing. And I've been told by others that those feelings just sort of stick with you. Great . . . 

But as I'm reaching the end of my first full year with Signify, I wanted to share some of the marketing mistakes I've made and lessons I've learned so that, no matter what stage your nonprofit or social enterprise is in, you can learn from them.

The vast majority of my clients have very little training in marketing, so these are the things I'd want to share with them if we were sitting down over coffee. 

My guess is that none of them will truly surprise you. They wouldn't have surprised me. And, in fact, I already knew to avoid them, and maybe you do too. But sometimes we just need to hear them at the right time. I hope this is your right time.

4 Marketing Mistakes I Made in My First 18 Months of Business

Marketing Mistake #1: Not starting my email list soon enough 

I'd been warned. I'd been warned multiple times in multiple places and from multiple people, and I waited anyway.

Something you should know about me: I'm a perfectionist. I'm also a cultivator, which is a pretty word for the fact that I become obsessive about research so I can learn #allthethings before making a decision. I'm not prone to inaction, but I wanted to figure out all the ways something can be done, and then take bits and pieces to form my own process. I actually like that I behave this way, but as you can guess, it's time-consuming.

I didn't launch my online presence for Signify until seven months after I started my business. I wasn't in a hurry, and I had projects to work on in those early months, so it wasn't a big deal. However, I should have started my email list well before I had a website to show off.

I've been freelancing since 2003 without a website. I've always relied on relationships and word-of-mouth referrals, and most of the time, I had a full-time job anyway, so it was just extra money. I've also had different types of jobs, and even volunteered in different places, too. So, I had contacts from lots of different industries and organizations.

And what I should have done is begin emailing all of those people individually and consistently along the way telling them what was coming, and asking if they'd like to be on my email list.

But I didn't.

I was busy with other things, and thought I'd make time for it later. However, I was so overwhelmed by all of the launch work for my website and social profiles that I took shortcuts when it was "time" to build my email list. I just didn't want to ask people to be on a list for something they couldn't actually see online. #fail 

I'm sure what I'm saying makes sense to you on both sides of the coin. But the result of waiting was that my list growth has been slow, and I'm still waiting to do some of those individualized and customized things I put off for later. Ugh. Can't I buy more time on Amazon yet???

So, the advice I'd give you is to always be focused on building your email list. Social media algorithms change, but landing directly in someone's inbox is prime real estate. When you have something to say, this helps ensure it's heard. 

(Of course, I shouldn't have to tell you, but I will: you also have to talk to your list. Find a consistency that works for you and reach out. Those people have agreed to be on your list, so don't squander that opportunity. There's always something to say.)

Marketing Mistake #2: Too many social profiles too soon

I'd never call myself a social media expert, but I have a pretty darn good handle on it. I know the what, when, why, and how of social media. But it sure eats up a lot of time!

I knew I should be on Facebook because that's where my audience is primarily. And I wanted to be on Twitter (because I like it). I also knew I wanted a Facebook Group to share resources more frequently, and help connect people to each other. So, those three profiles.

Plus, I use my own Instagram account. And I thought I should revive my LinkedIn now that I'm a business owner.

Then, in the spring, people kept telling me how great Pinterest was for business, so I bought a course, and hopped on there too.

Are you following all of this?

Some days I have trouble following it myself. Six accounts. And you can name a few others that I have chosen not to be on.

All-in-all, updating these guys takes a couple of hours minimum per week. Scheduling doesn't take that long since I know what I'm doing, but it's social media, and you should also be, well, social. A couple of hours may not sound like a lot until you find yourself needing more hours to get things done (like pretty much all of us).

Let's also state that I'm a solopreneur in a new business. Those are two other kinks to work out.

What I should've done is start with Facebook, and maybe add in a new profile every couple of months when I've found my rhythm and best practices. (PS: You don't have to add new profiles.)

But what I have done is get some help so I can focus more on tasks that can only be done by me, and/or that are more revenue-focused. The first way I did this was to invest in a social media scheduling tool, so that I'm posting multiple times per day on auto-pilot. Then I can jump in personally as I'm able to add more value and personality.

The other thing I did was ask my friend Jen, who is a social media manager, to do some freelance work for me. She is actually the one who got me set up with SmarterQueue, and has also been helping me determine a better strategy as well as dealing with some of the other little tasks I haven't had time for right now.

Unfortunately, I can't hire a social media manager permanently at this time. Maybe some day. But in this busy season, it has been a dream to have the extra help, and well worth the money. And now I know better what to do when she's not around. Even on a tighter budget, consider getting some help in busy seasons so you can focus on more important tasks, projects, and initiatives. (These are some of the same reasons that people hire me, so it makes perfect sense!)

Marketing Mistake #3: Postponing Content Creation for My Launch

I love launches. That's one reason they are my signature service. They're fun and exciting, and there's so much to show off. They're like the first flurries of winter.

So, like anyone would be, I was excited about my own online launch. But, they're also a lot of work, aren't they? I had to write emails, blog posts, social media posts, website content, and on and on and on.

And just like building my email list, I waited until my launch was right around the corner to really start doing anything about it. Why? I had other projects to work on. From the moment I said I was ready to take on clients, I had clients. So, I started prioritizing paying work over something that was months away. And after all, I wasn't paying myself to create content for Signify. 

So, it just kept getting bumped back. I started working with my website and branding designers in November, so that got things moving a little. But the launch was February 1, so January was when everything went into overdrive. And I was exhausted by the time I launched! Plus, now I had to learn to create content for Signify while working with paying clients. That's definitely something I should've eased into.

The moral of the story? Start working on your plan and productivity. Use a planner or free software like Asana (I love it!) to set deadlines and keep you on track so that when you do find 15 spare minutes, you can check something else off your list. 

There are so many facets to content creation, and you can use little bits of time here and there to move projects along. Small momentum is still momentum. Plus, you might actually get a good night's sleep during the launch.

Marketing Mistake #4: Not enough focus

While I do manage to get a decent amount of things done, I'm no where as productive as I'd like to be. I definitely have days where I look back and wonder what I've accomplished, or have spent a full day watching TEDTalks or webinars, or sorting through email. It happens to the best of us, and I'll probably never shake it completely.

But one of my main goals for 2018 is to figure out a better way to focus, and figure out what I need to be focusing on at any one time. Let me explain.

There are two things any business owner will tell you to do: make money and expand your reach. So, I have clients to pay my bills, but because I work mostly on projects, I have to continually acquire new project work. Well, I also need to expand my reach to find new clients so that I can continue to make money. Kind of a chicken and egg scenario.

There are also a million strategies to take on either route. So, when I have consistent income coming in, I'll work on expanding my reach. But then the pendulum swings, and I need to shift efforts. So, it's constantly going from one to another, and then trying one of the millions of strategies as well. 

This example may look similar for you, or not. But if not, you can probably fill in the blanks pretty easily. The point is that I'm guessing you, like me, switch up your efforts a lot. And I don't think is helping either of us.

I jump into everything with two feet, but I constantly act like I have 40 pairs of feet to jump in a bunch of different strategies with. This isn't good, and honestly, this is what I've been struggling with the most as this year comes to a close. 

But what I'll tell you, and what I'm telling myself, is that the only way to make significant, lasting progress is through focus. This may come as the result of a change in strategy, or getting help, or cutting things out of your schedule or life. For me, it's meant a combination, and I still have a lot of work to do.

However, I do recognize the problem. And I am making the effort to fix it. I know it will be a process, but I'm on the path.

So, as we come to the end of December, and start peaking into January, what does regaining focus look like for you? Where can you change your strategy, get help, or cut back? These are the things that will lead to growth. 

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the easiest thing to do (and the thing most of us do), is to add. If we can see that something isn't working, or not working fast enough, we try something else. But we don't stop Strategy A, we just try sticking Strategy B on top of it. This won't work. We know instinctively, and through trail-and-error, that it won't work. It's time to do something different. I am, and I hope you will too.

One final note: Besides the lessons themselves, the other big takeaway is that even marketers make plenty of marketing mistakes. This should cheer you up! We're all just out here learning, and trying to share what we know. Take heart. Learn from my mistakes. And I hope and pray that next year is your best yet.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

As I'm reaching the end of my first full year with Signify, I wanted to share some of the marketing mistakes I've made and lessons I've learned so that, no matter what stage your nonprofit or social enterprise is in, you can learn from them. The vast majority of my clients have very little training in marketing, so these are the things I'd want to share with them if we were sitting down over coffee. 

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


3 Foolproof Ways to Avoid Burnout at the End of the Year

Are you struggling with burnout as we come to the end of the year? I was, until very recently. I think it's pretty common, and probably one reason we look forward to the holidays—we can take a few days off without any guilt.

Burnout is an ugly monster. At the very least, it can slow us down and waste our time. At most, we can become unrecognizable. Tired, cranky, disinterested, shells of ourselves. I also struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I know that as much as I love this time of year, it has other hazards as well.

But I've got a business to run and a job to do, and I know you can relate. I only have the "luxury" of slowing down so much before everything is completely disrupted. So, what do we do? How do we cope? Do we just run headlong into the holidays, hoping that will save us? I don't think so, since most of us arrive on January 2nd's doorstep with that feeling of "needing a vacation from our vacation." 

In my past and recent experience, I think there might be a couple of other solutions we can turn to so that burnout doesn't get the best of us.

3 Fool Proof Ways to Avoid Burnout at the End of the Year

REGULAR SELF-CARE PREVENTS BURNOUT

This solution is likely the most obvious answer to you. It's tossed around a lot, especially at the beginning and end of the year. However, in last week's post from my friend, Daron, he points out that self-care is not something to be pursued when you're at the end of your rope. It's to be practiced regularly, throughout the year, so that you don't find yourself a frazzled lump of a person in the fetal position on the floor. (<-- speaking from experience)

I'm certainly not perfect at it, but here's what it looks like for me.

  • Monthly massages. These actually started as a result of some back issues, so it's more of a therapeutic massage, but I get them regularly, even when I'm not having other problems.
  • Travel. I love travel so much. It's life-giving to me. But since I was getting my business off the ground this year, I traveled much less than usual. And boy, did I feel it! I had the opportunity to housesit right before Thanksgiving in the North Georgia mountains for a few days, and just that short time and distance away did wonders for me. 
  • Retreats. My goal is to take short, quarterly retreats. For the last two years, I've taken an annual retreat in January, and will be doing so again. But this year, I decided to make them quarterly. I squeezed in two away from home this year (January and March), one in a co-working space (August), and one at home (November). All of these were extremely beneficial, and helped me refocus on work and life.
  • Friends. I have amazing friends, and I'm sure you do too. But with life and work, most of them having kids, and my tendency to be a hermit, I see them far less than I'd like. However, I notice that when I do get together with friends, my days and weeks are better. So, I try and schedule to see friends a few times per month.
  • Walks. I live near a beautiful trail, and I love to get out there and take a walk. Even though I usually listen to business podcasts while I walk, it still does my heart good to be in a natural setting.

These may, or may not, resonate with you. We're all different. They key is to find things you love, and make them a part of your regular schedule. The trick in executing them is to actually put them on your calendar. Good intentions only get you so far, but we often live according to our calendars.

I put my retreat dates on my calendar at the beginning of the year. I schedule my massages a month in advance. My travel is often planned weeks or months ahead too. So, prioritize your self-care throughout the year to avoid burnout at the end.

Accountability partner/peer group

I've had mentors for years, and value them immensely. But this year was the first time I've ever had an accountability partner. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I did for myself and my business this year.

You can do this one-on-one, or with a small group of people. It can be formal, or less so, according to your preferences. I began with a single partner, but we are actually expanding it to a small group of women next year, and are pretty excited about it. 

Depending on your role at your nonprofit or social enterprise, you may already have one or more co-workers that you can confide in, or collude with. That's important, for sure. However, just having someone to gripe and gossip with isn't enough. The accountability piece is vital. You need someone to encourage you, to push you to be better, and to be a sounding board when needed. 

This is especially important for those in leadership positions where there are likely less options for peer-to-peer relationships. So, having someone outside of the organization to be that person is crucial. 

Accountability partners help each other get things done. We motivate one another, and sometimes, we just listen to one another. We all have good days and bad days in lives and in business, and it's a beautiful thing to have someone to help get you through them. Sure, you also have co-workers, roommates, spouses, etc, that can do that as well, but accountability partners relate differently because they should hold a similar position or responsibilities, and have similar goals. They serve a special purpose.

Note: For you introverts out there (my people!), having an accountability partner or peer group is an excellent solution for you too. They're limited in size, so not overwhelming, and we tend to function mostly inside our heads, so we need others to gain more perspective. This solution could be huge for you, so don't skip over it!

Habits/Routines

I'll be honest, this one totally snuck up on me in the past week. I would have never guessed that habits and routines could help fight burnout. And you may be skeptical as well, but hang with me.

Though I am an INFJ (with sometimes some strong emphasis on the J), I still fight the monotony of habits and routines. There are some things I still want to be flexible. In fact, have always liked freelancing for the fact that it changes. I get bored easily, so predictability isn't always my friend.

However, for the past couple of weeks I've been prepping for January. I want to get a strong start, and that means I lay the foundation now. So, I've been participating in some online business challenges to accomplish short-term goals. 

Through the posts, videos, and webinars in these challenges, the hosts have been talking about how successful people have strong morning and nighttime routines, as well as daily habits. The importance of these things is that they will carry you through when the motivation wanes.

We all start the New Year with goals and resolutions, only to wave bye bye to them a few weeks later. And that's often because we didn't build in the habits that would get us to the finish line.

So, I've been thinking a lot about this over the past week or so. When I'm not stressed and in a time crunch, I like to start my day with the Calm meditation app, 5-Minute Journal, and maybe Blinkist. But when I am stressed or feel like I have no time, I skip all of this by waking up and reaching for my phone so that I can check my email. Sound familiar?

I was on several, big deadlines prior to Thanksgiving, and I was stressed. I started feeling burnout creeping in. Luckily, I had that little trip, and that helped, but the beginning of December has been hard again.

So this week, I decided to go back to that slower morning routine that I enjoyed, even though I didn't feel like I had the time. I wasn't waiting for January. I even added in a five-minute yoga video from YouTube. And you know what? It helped my mindset and that has trickled through my day. I also looked at my Calm app, and it showed that I'd skipped all of November. Coincidence? I think not.

These sort of habits and routines also have strong ties to self-care. However, there are many other habits and routines you could choose, such as exercise, eating healthy, taking a nap, focusing on big tasks in the morning, only having meetings after lunch, checking email only twice per day, and many other things. By making any of them a regular part of your life, you are ensuring that you keep functioning and taking care of yourself and your work when times get hard. And this, friends, keeps burnout at bay.

What do you do to combat burnout? I'd love to hear!



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Burnout is an ugly monster. At the very least, it can slow us down and waste our time. At most, we can become unrecognizable. Tired, cranky, disinterested, shells of ourselves. So, what do we do? How do we cope? Do we just run headlong into the holidays, hoping that will save us? In my past and recent experience, I think there might be a couple of other solutions we can turn to so that burnout doesn't get the best of us.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.