My note to self

This post originally appeared as a submission to the New Organizing Institute’s Tip of the Day series. Now discontinued, the series offered daily tips by and for NOI’s community of progressive organizers. While framed here for advocacy organizers, I’ve continued to find this practice super valuable in web development and in life.

Organizing is busy work. It’s easy to lose sight of motivators and lessons learned between managing staff or volunteers, reading horrible things the opposition is saying, or getting last-minute requests for emails, content updates, and whatnot.

My solution? A simple Note to Self. I personally have it in my Evernote, but just make sure it’s somewhere you won’t forget about it. That’s rule number one.

Some things to include are:

  • Lessons from mentors and colleagues. What did you admire most about your boss or coworker? Their open communication? Their unwillingness to accept B.S.? Their personal organization?
  • How you work best. What kind of music keeps you going but isn’t distracting? At what pace of work do things get too frantic? Do you need a clean workspace?
  • Your motivations. To remind yourself why you’re doing this. For your child? For a farmer you met who was being pushed around by Big Ag?
  • What kind of professional you want to be. Someone who doesn’t hold back hard truths? Someone who takes care of his co-workers? Some who bikes to work?

You can include anything, but keep it short. If this turns into an essay you won’t be as willing to revisit it often. Maybe ten top level points with one to three short explanatory points each. (Update: Mine is actually shorter now; six points total with a sentence or two in each.)

Finally, keep an “Outdated” section. If something no longer works, move it off the list but don’t delete it. Remembering how you used to think about things is important, even if you no longer agree with yourself.

Give it a shot. Remembering why and how you want to work in advocacy requires a little reminding every now and again–even if it’s simply to wash your coffee mug every day.

Update: My only major thought to add to this post is to use a service like If This Then That to automatize the process. I combined IFTTT’s built-in Date & Time trigger with its Email channel to have the message sent to me every month on the 13th (arbitrary date, happens to include my birthday).

I’ve made an IFTTT template you can add and personalize. Note that formatting the email does require a little HTML. Here’s to remembering the important stuff!