Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year and Thank You

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………….."

As I wish all of you a safe, sane, successful and joyous, healthy, prosperous new year, I want to extend my deepest appreciation for your continued support and kind and gracious feedback.

This has been a very good year for my blog.  Subscribers are up, independent page hits are up and readership is up.  The interviews posted here over the past year have garnered increased readership, the annual Top Fifty Most Powerful and Influential list and the annual What I Have Learned Blog compendium of advice and counsel from lessons learned have both continued to hit new highs, and the blogathons and guest conference reports are up as well.  And the Dinner-Vention 2 posts have had an even wider readership than last year.

Thank you all.

I've come to the conclusion that making year end predictions is beyond risky; it borders on folly.  Two polar opposite phenomenon are at play.  One: things change so quickly and so dramatically today, that it's virtually impossible to know what will happen; and Two: even with that accelerated change, in many ways, things hardly change at all.

If I were to hazard one guess at 2015, it would be that we are likely to see the floodgates begin to open on the exodus of the baby boomers from the leadership positions in the nonprofit arts, and that exiting is  likely to grow substantially over the next five years.  And that transition will have profound implications and impact for, and on, our field.

I'll be back after the first with new interviews, new blogathons this Spring and some new features.  I hope for your continued support and that you will perhaps even help me to increase the subscriber base further by recommending the blog to your colleagues and friends.

Don't Quit

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Twas the Night Before Christmas - Arts Edition

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………."

Twas the Night Before Christmas (nonprofit arts version)

Taking some liberties with the original:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not an artist was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that the grantmakers soon would be there;

The development directors were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of major grants danced in their heads;
And the Board Chair in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my laptop to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew for a look,
Tore open the browser and pulled up my Facebook.

The Twitter and Buzzfeed and Instagram posts
Gave a lustre of midday to all of our boasts,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively with thunder,
I knew in a moment he must be the Funder.
More rapid than conference goers his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Equity! now, Data! now Stability and Vixen!
On, Placemaking! on, Engagement! on, Capacity and Blitzen!
To the top of the Dress Circle! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As arts organizations before the wild hurricane fly
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of artworks, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a tweeting, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and planning my next blog,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came like a log.

He was dressed all in stage costumes, from his head to his feet
And his clothes were all tarnished like butts in the seats;
A bundle of art he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a Kickstarter just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples like a donor!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a loaner!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And his beard was as long as our budgets are low;

The iPhone he held tight to his ear,
And the cries for his ending he failed to hear;
He had a little round belly that hung to his knees
And I just knew he believed in our arts advocacy.

He was chubby and plump, like a right jolly old E.D.,
And I laughed when I saw him, from what I could see;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Gave me to know my application had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, nothing was said,
But by the toys in the stockings, I knew he favored Arts Ed,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a cry,
Like the pleas to our audiences, our tickets to buy.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
"Indigo go "Ho Ho Ho" to all, and to all a good night!”

Wishing you all Happy Holidays

Don't Quit.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Clueless in Calcutta and the Plight of the Siloed, Solo Artist

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………."

I'd like to recommend to you a new novel by a long time friend of mine.  Content wise, it has nothing to do with our field (but as a project, it does), and I am writing about it for two reasons:  One I have known the author for over 40 years; he is one of my closest friends and I really loved the book (and if you can't help your friends, well………); and Two I'm fascinated by what he has tried to do to market his own work - much like so many of the artists we try to serve in our field.  My friend's effort is, for me as an observer, a first hand, up close and personal, attempt to navigate the marketing waters and to be creative in trying to 'stand apart' from everyone else.  And that is a challenge faced by artists of every stripe.

Clueless in Calcutta by Lou Vincent is a crazy romp - a combination of gonzo journalism meets the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera, with endearing, unforgettable characters, and an off the top, but not entirely implausible, plot of expats and senior citizens fighting the odds against the modern corporation guided by greed and the 'let the buyer beware' shield - all improbably set in Kolkata India where the hapless seniors are stuck.  Set just slightly in the future, the hero is a just out of law school lawyer, who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to President Barack Obama - on his way to India to what he only thinks is a relatively sure thing retainer, to help some people who got screwed by a major domo retirement community builder.  From the moment of his arrival almost nothing is as it seems, and virtually nothing goes according to plan. But for all the twists and turns and insanity, at heart it's really a sweet story - and a homage to the craziness that is modern India.  Mindless, escapist entertainment of the first order.  And very funny.

It would make a fabulous stage play or a Wes Anderson or Coen Brothers type movie, with shades of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - and it's right in that vein.  I can mentally cast it right now.  If those filmmakers are your cup of tea, then you'll probably like this book a lot.  If you're looking for some creative, left field escapist entertainment bound to leave a reader smiling - as a last minute Christmas present - or for yourself during the holidays when you might want to curl up for a day - I can recommend Clueless in Calcutta wholeheartedly.   Check it out on Amazon.

What's interesting to me is that, as a first time author, with virtually no chance of a major publishing house taking on his work, my friend has had to don the same hats most solo or contract type artists of any kind must adopt today - that of marketer, pr person, scheduler and salesman, distributor and more.  As a literary artist, his motivation was similar to all artists - he wanted to tell a story.  But as a 21st Century unknown first time author, he has had to do what many of those artists we try to serve have had to do.  He had to come up with ways to try to market his work.  And so he did.  Check out his -- entirely by himself --created website, humor testimonials, and even video pieces.  All very creative I think.  Today, every artist has to be a social media expert, a videographer, a publicist, and rack their creative brains to try to compete in a world where everyone and everything is competing for everyone else's finite attention spans.  And while they learn all those jobs, there is no guarantee they will succeed in widening the sphere of those even aware of their work; a big challenge we in our field can only hope to occasionally and marginally help to address with training and advice.   No matter how well we succeed in equipping artists to brave this new reality with skills and knowledge, and no matter how creative a marketer each of those artists may be, it's still largely a matter of the fates deciding their success.

I know this experience first hand.  I wrote a book several years ago entitled Hardball Lobbying for Nonprofits.  I was fortunate enough to land a major publisher - McMillan and Co.  But as an unknown author, I was hardly on the top tier of their priority marketing / promotion plans.  I basically had to market it myself in the earliest stages.  That's not uncommon in the publishing world today.  In fact, publishers look for whether or not you have a platform and can get the ball rolling in deciding whether or not they want to publish your work at all, and they certainly look for your initial success before they will commit to any effort on your behalf.   I suspect the same is true in any number of other creative / artistic pursuits.  An artist is not just an artist.  An artist is also a business person.

On the one hand technology has given artists a fighting chance to have their work out there in the marketplace.  On the other hand, technology has made it a challenge just to attract an even small niche. While technology has opened a door to an ever widening array of creative product, it has also made it harder for any of that product to find an audience.  And the same situation may apply not just to solo artists but for arts organizations presenting the work of artists - famous and not so.

The challenge for us is to identify even more ways and means we might be able to help artists, and there are scores of projects and programs we have developed that try to do just that.  Still, the solo artist remain siloed and must often rely on themselves to try to make headway - most without any kind of budget.  And the same is likely true of our organizations as well.  This challenge is likely one of the single greatest challenges artists on their own (and we who serve them) face today.

To all you amateur (and professional) authors and artists -- and to all of the organizations working on their behalf -- keep doing it.  Tell your story - whether in word, paint, dance, voice, music or otherwise.  Be your own marketers and pr people, sell it yourself and learn and have fun in the process.  And may the fates smile on all of you.

And check out Clueless in Calcutta.

Wishing the Happiest of Holidays to everyone.

Don't Quit

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflections from the Conference for Community Arts Education from Talia Gibas

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on…………………"

I wanted to attend last month's National Guild for Community Arts Education conference, and blog on it, but a conflicting schedule made that impossible.  I reached out to Guild Executive Director Jonathan Herman to see if someone on his staff might want to report on the outcomes.  I had in mind Heather Ikemire from the Guild, as I had long been an admirer.  But, of course, that was a really inconsiderate thought on my part, as Heather was one of the point people for all the planning and operations of the conference. Heather was kind enough to find me someone to report; and not just someone, but Talia Gibas, who to my mind is one of the best of the new cohort of arts administrator leaders on the horizon. Her work is impressive on multiple levels.   I am deeply grateful to Jonathan, Heather and especially Talia.

Here's Talia's bio:

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas is Arts for All Manager at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and a member of the editorial team of Createquity, a research-backed investigation of the most important issues in the arts. Arts for All is the Los Angeles County arts education initiative dedicated to making the arts core in K-12 public education. Working closely with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Talia is responsible for arts education professional development programming for school district leaders. She also manages grant programs that support those leaders and connect school districts with teaching artists and arts organizations throughout the County.  With Createquity, she works to make high-value information and analysis about critical issues in our field available to current and emerging decision-makers across the sector.

Talia earned her A.B. in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, and Ed.M in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She currently serves on Americans for the Arts’s Arts Education Council. In her non-arts life, she is an avid endurance athlete and proud member of California Triathlon.

Here is Talia's informative personal report on this important conference:

Reflections from the Conference for Community Arts Education
By Talia Gibas

The National Guild for Community Arts Education recently held its 77th annual conference in Los Angeles, California. As a first-time attendee, I was asked to share personal reflections from the gathering, paying particular attention to high-level takeaways.  My observations are informed by my background, the difficult choices I made in attending sessions, and work commitments that required I miss highlights such as the conference keynote address. I was impacted nonetheless, and what follows is a synthesis of the big questions, concerns, and points of inspiration that remain weeks after the fact.

As you read, please keep a few things in mind about me:

 My expertise is in in-school arts education. I work for Arts for All, an initiative that supports school districts and arts organizations in their effort to strengthen arts education during the school day. Much of what was covered at the Guild focused on out-of-school time – new territory to me.

I heart data. A big chunk of my work is to support assessment and evaluation practice. I’m also a member of the editorial team of Createquity, a research-backed investigation of the most important issues in the arts. I believe strengthening our research and assessment practices can make things better for students.

I jumped around a lot. The conference offered several tracks to promote “field building.” One explored the Creative Youth Development movement (more on that later) and the other focused on teaching artist development and pathways. In an attempt to get outside my comfort zone while attending sessions that relate to my work, I charted a winding path that touched on a number of different themes.

The Color and Chaos of the Big Tent

Two things stand out as the most delightful aspects of the conference. The first was the opportunity to interact with an inspiring array of individuals who represented in school, out-of-school, and community practice. The second was the energy of the gathering. The conference theme, “catalyzing positive change through arts education,” resonated through an emphasis on social justice that ran through sessions, presentations, and informal conversations. We gathered during a fraught week. President Obama announced executive actions to change our immigration system. The conference plenary speaker, Ron Chew, took the stage with mixed emotion, noting he was the son of illegal immigrants. The grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, had not yet been announced, but hints of frustration and despair drifted in the air. I saw three people weep openly in sessions. Yet through it all was a palpable sense that we have a critical role to play in making change. More than anything, I appreciated the Guild’s efforts to demonstrate how our work pushes up against big, thorny issues.

Those efforts, set inside the colorful and chaotic tent of people who identify as “arts educators,” left me with a number of questions. To what extent can and should we seek firm definitions around and within the work that we call “arts education”? As a group, how do we come to consensus amidst competing – and sometimes dissonant – priorities? Do we even need consensus? And if we don’t, how do we make sure we learn from one another despite the pressures of time, funding, and occasional divergent ideology?

Firming up the Edges 

Many of these questions germinated during the first day of the conference, when I attended a full-day session on Creative Youth Development (CYD). A relatively new focus area for the National Guild, the core principles of CYD have been around for a while, but began to formalize last year during a national summit in Boston.

The summit, co-hosted by the Guild, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, generated a policy agenda and five broad priority areas:  building collective impact to improve youth outcomes; contributing to community development; facilitating social change and social justice; documenting and communicating program impact, and funding and sustainability. Long-term goals include aligning the efforts of CYD practitioners and illuminating work across the country. There was also, at several points throughout the session, mention of the possibility of unlocking “arts-adjacent funding.”

“Arts-adjacent funding” is an intriguing but awkward term, one that I think refers to money that currently supports youth social services. I say “I think” because while the CYD conversation had palpable energy throughout, it did not leave me with a clear understanding of what creative youth development is. When the session concluded my best guess was that it refers to programs that a) take place primarily outside of school, b) target adolescents and young adults, c) incorporate creative endeavors, and d) promote social change. The subtleties of the definition are still being worked out, and the role of social change appeared particularly contentious among session attendees. To some, framing CYD as a social change effort makes it distinctive and creates a home for arts organizations whose primary goals for youth are neither purely academic nor artistic. To others, the focus was unnecessarily exclusive. A community music school, for example, may not see social change as part of its mission, but believes it contributes to youth development. Shouldn’t there still be room for that school in the CYD movement?

We are an inherently welcoming and collaborative bunch, and putting firm definitions on things is not easy.  CYD may evolve into a commonly accepted label for a small but vibrant subset of our sector, or into a trendy term used to refer to pretty much any arts education program. With all due respect to organizations who worry they will “miss out” if their missions do not align with the CYD framework, I hope it is the former. Arts educators have an important role to play both inside and outside our outmoded systems of K-12 and higher education. Too many young people fall outside of or suffer through those systems. Engaging with them to build new and different safety nets is vital.

Conversations about CYD are exciting but underscore the need to create constructive boundaries while maintaining a commitment to open exchange. Other aspects of my conference experience, all against the backdrop of the national sociopolitical headlines of the week, reminded me how hard that can be.

From Rallying Cry to Next Step

At the closing awards luncheon, three young women from the wonderful local organization Get Lit delivered a powerful spoken word piece on the unconscious, ugly “truths” we reinforce for students every day. The performance punched us in the gut; then the lights came up and the rules of luncheon dictated it was time for chitchat and salad.

My bewilderment in that moment reminded me of a late night years ago when I finished the first draft of a piece of fiction I’d labored over for a month. The piece contained turns of phrase I loved, transitions I hated, and a good deal of rambling. I was at once anxious to keep working at it, and at a near-exhausted loss with where to start. Staring at the pages I could only think, “But… now what do I do?”

I doubt I was alone in my impatience. Given the state of our world, impatience -- not to mention frustration, or even anger – is a given. We know things need to be improved, and we know those improvements are urgent. How to reconcile urgency with pragmatism or thoughtful prioritization is something we all struggle with, illustrated by my mixed emotions moving from one focal point of my conference to another.

I balanced my sessions on creative youth development and social justice with sessions on student assessment and data-driven decision making. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I felt I was moving between two different conferences. The passion, excitement, and slippery definitions of the former were balanced with charts and graphs in the latter. By the time National Guild Service Award recipient Margie Reese, in the middle of a fervent call for us to “launch a revolution,” declared paying evaluation consultants to be an unconscionable decision when children have immediate needs, I realized research and assessment are still widely perceived as millstones rather than supports. “Data has been banged up a bit at this conference” one participant ruefully observed after the luncheon. I was left wondering how the sense of sincerity and spontaneity Margie recalled in talking about the civil rights movement can reconcile with the pragmatism and patience “data-driven decision making” implies.

To me, both derive from our natural impulse to ask questions – questions that challenge authority, the status quo, our own assumptions, or the assumptions of people who came before us. We must ask questions – thoughtful, probing questions—without falling into paralysis, and without waiting for some abstract sense of permission to do our work. Sometimes we seek the permission in the form of a glossy report; other times we wait for a broad consensus on the best way to move forward. As I noted earlier, however, consensus may not be possible in a tent as colorful and crowded as ours. Perhaps our challenge is not to move in lockstep together. Perhaps our work – and the role of organizations such as the National Guild – is to create meeting spaces where we can put creative pressure on one another. Our tent is a noisy, frayed space where we bump up against each other, look each other in the eye, and ask questions. New people enter, others leave, and some set up new camps next door. If it’s a chaotic space, fine. It’s still a place where we can imagine how to transform the field outside into a more vibrant and fertile place.

Thank you Talia.

Have a great week, and stay sane during the holidays.

Don't Quit

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reports on Alternative Venues, Eliminating Budgets in Grant Applications, and Thoughts from Thomas Cott

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on…………….."

Several items this week that are well worth taking a look at:

I.  The James Irvine Foundation released a report last week entitled Why "Where"? Because "Who", authored by Brent Reidy of AEA Consulting, addressing the issue of alternate venues for the presentation of art, examining "why place has become an important variable for arts practitioners to consider as they chart a course for the future."

This is an outstanding contribution; well researched, well written. The tendency for most of us is to read the Executive Summary of these kinds of reports and often skip the rest.  That would be a mistake with this offering; there is a lot of meat here.  You really ought to take the time to read the whole thing.  Particularly prescient is the section on "context", making a convincing case "challenging the assertion that the trend towards presenting arts in "unusual spaces for new audiences" is a recent one.  In discussing 'placemaking' Mr. Reidy offers:

"An irony of these initiatives (towards the presentation of arts in "unusual" places) is that the places being creatively “made” have for much of the long history of the arts been primary sites for creative expression and engagement, and the public these projects reach was once less distant than it is today. The arts have not existed for eternity in stand-alone cultural facilities apart from our shared public life. In this respect, these efforts do not create a new paradigm, but rather restore one that was lost over the last two hundred years."

Bricks and mortar 'in-house' temples to the arts are the new development in arts presentation, not those venues we now think of as unusual.  As the arts shifted from being considered as the popular culture of the mainstream to being presented as "something to be worshipped in its own right", the arts moved away from the common venues of bars, taverns, public gardens and the like to what would soon become 'temples' where the power of the arts could be appropriately worshipped.  As we moved from art as something to "delight and wonder" audiences, to something to "educate and improve" audiences, that sacralization moved presentation further from the audience - a trend that seems to have plowed forward over the past fifty years.

And now we are again trying to consider what kinds of places might lend themselves to expanding a narrowing audience for art; where arts presentation might again find favor with a wider public - and in that pursuit the perhaps unspoken attempt to again allow the arts to simply entertain and be enjoyed without the requirement that the arts act as a moral compass or an attempt to represent some deep truth.

And why this shift?  Because the audiences have been shrinking. Because there is heretofore unheard of competition for the public's attention and interest.  Because, perhaps, the attitude that the arts are sacred, is seen as patronizing - at least by mushrooming populations.  But mostly because we are having a hard time surviving under that now dated rubric.

In some senses, presenting art in less formalized environments (e.g., outdoors or in public places) allows audiences the freedom they may have once enjoyed when art was presented in people friendly venues; audiences can eat and drink and talk among themselves and still enjoy and wonder at quality art - much like sports fans do when they attend sporting events.  The hallowed halls of our expensively built temples to our art has made it off putting to a lot of people.  It worked for us, but not, necessarily, for the wider audiences we wanted to share it with.  Anything outside those temple walls came to be considered as 'non-traditional".  And the truth is that any mission statement that confines its objectives to the presentation of the art to the true-believers in what are (only) now "traditional" places is a mission that is in trouble in today's world.

As the author argues:

"The word “nontraditional” is relational; it refers to something that is not traditional to some person or some group. In this case, the people who view some spaces as “nontraditional” are not the people to whom many of these efforts try to reach. The term is therefore self-defeating — it sets one up in opposition to the very audience one is attempting to cultivate."

The report goes on to consider the successes (and lessons learned) of ten individual organizations as case studies in exploring options for 'non-traditional' venues.  In arguing for an expansion of the 'places' art might be presented, Mr. Reidy offers six recommendations on moving forward:

1. Plan the approach. Just showing up isn’t enough. Successful efforts in new spaces that connect with new participants are often the result of many months of planning and engagement.

2. Share ownership. Invite communities to fully participate by sharing ownership. Don’t just go to new places to “give” art to the people there. Listen to that community and learn from it.

3. Partner up. Efforts of this type are enabled by a broad array of partnerships involving community groups and other local organizations, private businesses, donors and foundations.

4. Prepare to invest and adapt. This work is often labor-, time- and resource-intensive. Pursuing it may require rethinking programming, business models and funding.

5. Aim for engagement. This work is not about luring audiences back to a conventional venue. There may be some audience crossover, but project objectives should focus on engagement at the chosen locations, not hope for engagement somewhere else later on.

6. Open new doors. It’s not an all or nothing game. New sites have been successfully integrated as part of an organization’s total offering, the majority of which still occurs in less unusual places.

Placemaking has gained wide traction in our field based on the common assumption that the arts can play an instrumental role in defining and making meaningful 'place'.  This report intelligently suggests that 'place' itself plays an equally defining and meaningful role in the health of the arts.

Great report.

II.  The second report that caught my eye was on the GIA site:

Entitled:  "Why One Funder Eliminated Grantee Budgets to Improve Financial Due Diligence"

"The Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock on Long Island awards approximately $12 million annually to nearly 200 organizations nationwide. After working with a consultant to overhaul the financial component of its application process, the program eliminated requests for budgets last year. The Foundation Review published the case study titled, "In Other Words, the Budgets Are Fake: Why One Funder Eliminated Grantee Budgets to Improve Financial Due Diligence." Through this report, the Veatch Program proposes one model for reducing administrative burden on applicants while simultaneously getting a clearer picture of an applicants' financial well-being and capacity to fulfill project goals."
While this report will have particular meaning to funders, it ought to be read by rank and file arts organizations as well - as it examines the problems attendant to the lack of standards in budgetary preparation, having multiple budget approaches for multiple purposes and the confusion that results from unrealistic projections of income.  As a field, we really need to get a handle on our budgets and the financial health of our organizations those budgets purport to represent.

III.  Finally, here is a link to a brief interview with Thomas Cott - he of the highly regarded and widely praised You've Cott Mail blog (and if you don't subscribe to his blog, you really ought to).

We don't get enough of Thomas' own insights and thinking.  He is a very smart marketer and observer of the issues in our field.

Here's a sample:

Question:  "What do you see as the live entertainment industry’s biggest challenges?

TC: There are any number of challenges I could cite, but here are three big ones which I view as interrelated: (1) the marginalization of the arts, despite great public interest; (2) the conundrum of how to present performances on a set schedule in an “on-demand” world; and (3) the generally slow speed of change in the way the live entertainment industry works."

Happy reading.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Five Tips to Get Through the Holidays Productively

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on…………………"

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over.  And now we begin the holiday season.  And that means increasing pressures on limited time, and countless obstacles to productivity and to getting anything accomplished.

Here are five tips to get through the holidays on the business front (hopefully they will be helpful to you):

1.  Recognize and Accept the Reality that is the Season:  While a month seems long enough that we still have time to get through our end of the year TO DO lists, we really don't have a full month.  The reality is that business will be fairly normal for the next two weeks until around the 15th.  After that things will pretty much shut down as people turn their attention to travel arrangements, gift buying, holiday gatherings and anticipation of the new year. Work will go on of course, but attention spans will often be elsewhere.  Pressures on time will mount.  Last minute things will arise.  It will become increasingly harder to get anything done.  Understanding that reality and accepting what you cannot do anything about is key to getting something done during the next month, and positioning yourself for January 3rd.  Remember the Steinbeck quote from Of Mice and Men:  "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray".  Expect things to go differently than your plans - especially in terms of available time to do everything.  The world will still be here January 3rd  and so will most, if not all, the problems, challenges and things to get done that you don't get done by the end of the year  (and the reality is that work really begins again normally and in earnest the week following New Year's - not the day or two after).  That's ok.  Focus on the big stuff and get done what you can early in the month.  Don't expect that people will be as responsive to you during the season.  It just doesn't happen that way.   And two more things:  Take good care of yourself. Eat right and get sleep.  Getting sick in the holidays is a disaster.  And second, give yourself some time for yourself.

And while the holiday season is unkind to productivity, it nonetheless offers great value in winding down, networking with colleagues (old and new), taking stock and availing oneself of all the performances, exhibits, parties, dinners and celebrations.  Make the most of that.  But don't overdo it.

Finally, remember that it is easier to get finished with something if you break it up into smaller things that have to be done and concentrate on those - one at a time.  Here are a couple more tips from Daniel Pink:

1. "Honor the 2-Minute rule.
This one comes from the great David Allen, whose Getting Things Done methodology I’ve used for 15 years. In short, if you’ve got something to do that takes less than two minutes, do it right now.

2. Don’t waste your most productive hours.
A growing stack of research shows that each day, we reach our peak productivity a few hours after waking.  Don’t devote that window of time to checking email or playing around on social media. Use it to do your most important work."

2.  Prioritize Now:  Make two lists and do it today.  The first list is the things you absolutely must get done by the new year.  The second list are the things that, if you were to get to them, would make it so much easier to move forward on January 3rd.  Break down the first list into the things YOU have to do to get through that list, and the things you need OTHER PEOPLE to do if you are going to succeed.  Calendar what you need to do in the next two weeks.  Focus on the other people's work because if you can get from them what you need by mid-month, you can operate on the rest yourself during the last two weeks, when it will be axiomatically much more difficult to get others to finish their work. And don't be surprised when it is hard or impossible to get what you need from other people after the 15th. You will need to carve out as much uninterrupted time as you can to focus on what is on your priority lists after the 15th.  And if, by chance, you have a late December deadline that you just may not make -- notify those expecting something from you and try to negotiate a postponement.  You will go crazy if you end up with the old college standby of trying to pull an "all nighter" to meet a deadline.  (In my coaching sessions I advise people to never schedule a deadline for any important report, study, memo etc. between Thanksgiving and the New Year.)

3.  Minimize Meetings of all kinds:  Don't call any meetings yourself unless they are absolutely necessary, and beg off attending as many meetings called by others that you can.  If you have to schedule meetings, cut way back on the time they take.  If you need feedback and brainstorming ideas, try to get people to email you their brief and concise responses.  Be clear on what you need from others, but remember the pressures of the season impact us all.  Don't have unrealistic expectations of input from other people, but DO make unambiguously clear what you expect from staff subordinates and from co-workers alike.  Try as you will, you won't be able to squeeze 30 hours into a 24 hour day - though one wishes one could.

4.  Manage your communications:  Clean out your email box asap.  And do that daily.  Remember you don't have to respond to every email you get.  And the more emails you send, the more responses you will get.  Same with phone calls.  Cut back.  Way back.  Again, prioritize what information you need from others and what information you need to communicate to others.  The reality is that you don't have time to communicate as you normally do most of the year.  Forget social networking.  You've got to say NO to a lot of things.  The key is to focus on your lists.

5.  Plan out that first week in January now: Know in advance what you will need to do to begin the new year on the right foot.  Schedule essential contacts / meetings now that will be important for you then.  If you wait until January, you could easily waste an entire week just trying to schedule calls and meetings.  It will be much easier to do that now.  Put yourself in a position to be productive on your return to work.  Don't squander that first week or postpone things until the second week.  That is wasted and valuable time.

The holiday season can be stressful and exhausting. And its aftermath may be to make you feel as though you are behind on everything - and that's not good for your morale or for the morale of those who work for you or with you.  Forget New Year's resolutions.  Instead, resolve now to be really organized and productive for the next two weeks, and to position yourself to hit the ground running come January 3rd. And to the extent it is possible, try to get your subordinates and co-workers to adopt a similar attitude.

Good luck and enjoy your holidays.  And bear in mind that the holidays, and all their ups and downs, will pass.  Keep your perspective.

Have a productive week.

Don't Quit