How to Crank out the Work (without Becoming Cranky)

Most of us who work for non-profits have more work to do than we have time to do it. So we prioritize, focus on the task at hand and try not to think about what’s waiting for us when we’re finished with the task at hand. So what’s a writer to do?

Do the minimum amount of work required, and then pass the project on to the next level. Repeat. There is little room for perfection or excellence. Do your best work, make it count, but do the minimum amount of work required, then pass it on.

If you write stories about the work of your non-profit, find one big idea. Why did someone pick this story to best illustrate how your mission works? How is this person accomplishing the goals of your organization?

Anyone remember the move City Slickers? Three men in the 40s, each having a mid-life crisis, leave wives and children behind to join a cattle drive out West. On the drive, the wizend, crusty, aging cowboy who has spend a lifetime doing what he loves, gives one of the men a valuable piece of advice. To paraphrase the scene, the cowboy says that the meaning of life is one thing. Taking the bait, one of the 40-somethings asks what that one thing is.  “That’s what you’ve got to figure out,” the cowboy answers.

Fortunately, while you do have to figure out what your one main point is going to be, you have a few guidelines. What’s the stated purpose of your mission? How about your vision statement? With purpose and vision statement in hand, ask yourself:  How the people in this story best demonstrate the mission and vision of our organization? 

Let that become your focus statement. For example,

Insert name here, fulfills our mission of insert mission here, when she insert description of work here

Now, smooth that out so it’s readable and interesting to your readers.

Next, pick the details that match your focus statement. Details could include:

  • a scene from her work
  • statistics collected during the previous year
  • her background (how did her life circumstances prepare her for the work she’s doing?)
  • the background of the work she’s doing (what happened before she arrived, when she arrived, now that she’s been there?)
  • a statement about the future (leave room for growth. No work is ever truly finished.)

You’re done. Turn it in, take a well-deserved break, and then repeat the process with the next assignment.

Improve your productivity by working faster. Set absurd deadlines for yourself. If you have the information in front of you, see how much of this you can get done in an hour. Do your best work, but know when you’re done.

As I have written, edited and coached other writers, my own skills and the skills of the people I work with have improved based on the numbers of projects they have written. As you repeat the process, your work improves. This is a case where quantity over quality, as long as you are doing the best work you can in that moment, leads to more work done and better writing skills.

How can you keep from becoming cranky? Know what done looks like. Know what is expected. Fulfill the requirements of the assignment and pass it on.

Happy writing.

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