Summer Step-Back: Trade the Trees for the Forest

The Summer Step-Back is a great time to figuratively trade the trees for the forest in evaluating your communications efforts.

Last week, I introduced the idea of taking a Summer Step-Back. This is an intentional approach to handling seasonal slowdowns to help you feel more strategic, rested and ready to take on whatever comes your way when the pace picks back up. Today, I will talk about zooming out so you can refocus on what matters to your nonprofit.

The Trees for the Forest

Often, there are fewer urgent demands on your time during the summer months. Consequently, you’re not as immersed in the details and tactics that can swallow up all your focus.

Let’s be honest: Sometimes those nitty-gritty details are a great way to avoid looking at the big picture.

And if you’ve had a chaotic start to your year, you often feel like you’ve earned a break.

And sure, a few hours on Twitter can be a welcome breather when you need it.

If you’re anything like me, when the distractions of day-to-day fires fall away, existential dread can start to creep in. When this happens, aimlessly frittering time away at work won’t do anything to help.

So, today I’m sharing some ideas for meaningful, big-picture work that can help you feel realigned within your work. The goal of these activities is to help you structure your time to improve your efficiency, your overall impact and your work satisfaction.

Summer is a great time to do this, not only because you may have more time to dedicate to it, but also because you’re halfway through the year: Enough time to get a good picture of how you’re progressing toward your goals, but also plenty of time to recalibrate if you’re off track.

Evaluate your big-picture goals and progress toward them

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to inform the remaining half of your year:

How am I progressing toward goals for this year?

If you have measurable results, see if you can identify what strategies and tactics are contributing to those results. How can you leverage what’s working? Just as importantly, what can you let go of?

If your goals are more nebulous or subjective, can you develop any measurement tools to make your progress more concrete?

Maybe you have a hands-off supervisor or are totally working solo and are really lacking goals. It’s not too late to set some.

What themes are emerging so far this year?

Don’t wait until November to start strategizing stories and impact to share with your donors, supporters or customers. Take a step back and identify any high-level themes or story arcs you can nurture and explore as the year goes on.

This is a great opportunity to tap programs staff for success stories or other compelling content.

Or, if your organization has a strategic plan, review that for ideas. With this in mind, you can create a list of content needs for your newsletters or even next year’s annual report.

What systems can you put in place to make your life easier?

I’ve always been the type of person who fills my free time with projects I make for myself, and slow seasons like summer are a great time for nonprofit communicators to start meaningful projects.

Once you’ve taken the time to explore your progress toward goals and emerging themes for your year so far, you can develop systems and solutions to help you reach those goals.

Here are some examples:

  • For nonprofits with programs and communications silos, develop a plan for procuring, organizing and sharing stories — maybe launching a storytelling committee or setting up a storybanking process.
  • Is your review process for new content convoluted and unclear? Create a new system for getting approval.
  • Work with HR to instill some elements of communications into onboarding for new employees, interns, volunteers.

The Summer Step-Back is a great time to zoom out so you can refocus on what really matters in your work. Do you have any projects or processes you’re developing to tackle this big-picture planning? Drop me a line at @reannakwrites and share your knowledge to help other nonprofit communicators make the most of their summer.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, the final in the Summer Step-Back series: How to still be productive when you’re too tired, too burned out or too daydream-y to think too deeply.

Featured Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

About the Author Reanna

I'm a freelance writer, part-time farmer, full-time mom of two and sometimes blogger. I like craft beer, low-key DIY projects and reading advice columns.

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