Sleep was so great. I can still remember—so well!—the muted delight in putting my head down on a pillow, sliding my socks off under the covers, and falling quickly into REM sleep. Or later, post-children, lying face-down on the bed with a pillow doing its heroic best to safeguard against noisy nights. That worked pretty well, too.
But no longer!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve accumulated more responsibilities, more worries, and apparently more always-firing synapses. I’ve consequently said a reluctant goodbye to an easy full-night’s sleep.
These days, sleep requires more rigorous methods of relaxation. I read of course…although some books put me to sleep more quickly than others. But now, in addition to reading, I’ve also started writing.
According to new research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, writing—and specifically writing a to-do list—can promote sleep (or act as an aid for falling to sleep). Researchers found that people who wrote to-do lists fell asleep faster than people who instead wrote out their day’s accomplishments.
In some ways, it’s totally counterintuitive that writing out the day’s un-done tasks would provide a map to dreamland. In other ways, it makes a lot of sense. Writing has always been a method for imposing order on chaos. And writing a to-do list is often much more satisfying than actually completing any written-down tasks.
If you’re not sleeping either, perhaps your to-do list should include writing tonight.
The good news: your organization is growing. Maybe you've got new funding sources, your client base has expanded, or you've rolled out successful new services. You're expanding your reach, your impact, and your team. All of this requires strategy.
Growing your communications does, too.
In many ways, communications don't scale like other organizational functions. This is especially true of internal communications, which for small organizations may be completely organic. But whereas organic communications processes may be adequate (even efficient) for a team with a handful of people, they quickly become inefficient (even hazardous) when that team grows.
Growing organizations face two big problems when it comes to internal communications: lack of documentation, and lack of formalization.
Because small teams tend to function organically, there's often little or no documentation of roles and procedures. Team members know each other's strengths, pick up tasks as needed, and fall into familiar routines. But when too much lives in employees' heads, an organization can be on precarious footing when it starts to grow.
Ensuring institutional memory by creating and maintaining external records of communications is crucial for future growth.
Similarly, the organic functioning of a small team can hinder the development of formalized internal communications procedures. After all, maintaining a regular meeting schedule or planning and tracking workflow can seem cumbersome when you interact with everyone on your team every day.
But when an organization relies too much on informal communications to keep its wheels turning, it risks those wheels grinding to a halt. By formalizing communications procedures, you create the conditions for sustainable growth.
So what does it actually look like to document and formalize communications?
While the specifics are different for every organization, it means determining and codifying what works. It means finding the right tools—from calendars to trackers to meeting procedures—to accommodate your organization's growth. And it means creating and regularly updating written documents that detail communications operations in a way that makes them clear and easily adoptable for new team members.
Consciously scaling internal communications is crucial when it comes to organizational capacity-building. It's a forward-looking task that helps ensure the health of growing organizations.
Katie Thune is an advocate, a teacher, and the founder of Mad Hatter Wellness—a wellness center for classes, workshops, and retreats that empower children and adults with and without disabilities.
She is also a Double Shift Press author!
After spending 12 years teaching and advocating for kids with disabilities, Katie has seen firsthand that students need—and teachers want—a comprehensive guide for sex ed in the special education classroom. Sex ed is a tough subject, sure, but because people with disabilities face rates of sexual assault that are seven times higher than other populations, Katie knows it can’t be ignored. Her book offers the necessary guidance on navigating sensitive situations, teaching sexual education, and helping students develop healthy relationships.
From Katie’s perspective, kids with disabilities are vulnerable because they aren’t taught about the standards and expectations around boundaries, touch, consent, and healthy relationships. They don’t always recognize what inappropriate behavior, or a “bad touch,” is—even when they engage in it themselves.
Her book gives teachers the information, case studies, and curriculum ideas they need to educate students in the special education classroom on sexuality and sexual health.
Katie's work is already having an impact—you may have heard her with Marianne Combs on MPR. Her book will fuel her advocacy and broaden her reach, and it will give readers a practical tool for making a difference in children's lives.
We've been doing a bit of mental spring cleaning at MWS—namely, how best to package our most requested services. That's led us to a bit of spring cleaning for our website: check out our new Services page!
Our three packages (Comprehensive Communications Plans, Review of Public-Facing Communications, and Review of Communications Operations) describe the support we provide for the challenges we see most often among our nonprofit clients. We created them to offer the most efficient, effective means of determining and resolving organizations' needs.
But we also offer support for discrete projects such as grants, websites, blog writing, reports, workshops, and presentations. If you don't see what you need, reach out! Let us know what's on your communications spring cleaning list—we can almost always help.
My (very few) Twitter followers already know that I loved Patricia Lockwood’s essay, “How Do We Write Now?,” published in Tin House, particularly what she calls its “alternate title”: “how the fuck do we write now?”
Lockwood is a poet—and a bawdy one—so the vulgarity is allowed, expected even.
But she makes a good point. How do we keep going on projects large and small when social and other media relentlessly point out all the ways the world is falling apart?
You can try logging off and muting all, which we’ve advocated before. You can also try slowing down and noticing (maybe even appreciating) the unpixelated view out your window, which Lockwood and Jocelyn Glei suggest.
But if you’re just putting off a big job or trying to finish a complicated one, you may not need inspiration. You might just need persistence.
There are many research-based strategies that promote actual persistence (the kind that follows from engagement). You could, for example, integrate weekly updates into project reporting. Psychology professor Gail Matthews’s study on goal achievement in the workplace found that 70 percent of participants who updated friends weekly on their progress reported goal achievement.
Or, you could break down a new project (or what’s left of an old project) into smaller, finite (and thus reachable) goals. By doing so, you manipulate the completion bias—the bias that makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something when we’ve simply made a to-do list—to serve your bigger purpose.
Or, you could constrain your project (and yourself) by shortening your timeline. This isn’t always possible (or desirable) for large-scale, multi-team projects. But when projects are given a long lead, scope can creep and focus can become more diffuse. It’s Parkinson’s Law: tasks expand to fill the time allotted for completion.
Persistence doesn’t have to be the purgatory of productivity. If none of these strategies work, just follow Lockwood’s lead: go ahead and write a fucking poem.
English PhD, former arts administrator, obsessive cook, native East Coaster, mom to two rabblerousers.
English PhD, former high school teacher, obsessive organizer, native Midwesterner, mom to three troublemakers.