For as long as I remember, I was proud of being someone whose default response was YES. It was the right mind frame for my teens and 20s. But I turned 30 last year. And I now I want to get better at the other side of that spectrum: saying no.
So I made it one of my 2017 resolutions: to say NO more often. Though I hope to do lots with that perspective, it will come down to focusing my attention.
This is my pledge to myself that I will say no, that I will limit what I do and agree to so that I only focus on what I can do well. That means I will have to say no to things I care about.
One of the clearest ways I’m doing that is by dropping and limiting my existing extra curricular activities, while being far choosier about any I add. Understand: this does not mean I don’t have interest in these or other issues. This means I’m focusing on what I can provide unique value to and fits me now.
I’m aiming to take this more into my day job (so I don’t let my office get as cluttered and messy as it was in the header photo from early 2015) but for the first clearest way to show my progress, I wanted to share what I’ve already set in motion.
Here’s how I’m stepping down my involvement in several initiatives that mean a great deal to me:
- ONA Local: Since supporting the Online News Association’s local chapter revival in 2011, I’ve been been organizing programming for reporters and newsroom types monthly. Since my last co-organizer left in summer 2014, I’ve been on my own. With this resolution, I finally gathered other like minded editorial people to join in the organizing. In 2017, I’ll be back to having support, so I can step down my role.
- Pen and Pencil Club: I’m finishing up my fourth year on the board of the country’s oldest surviving open-daily press club. I’ve learned a lot and had a real impact, including launching the clubs’ popular annual awards series. Though I’ll be writing more about this in a couple weeks, next month I will be stepping down from the board.
- Story Shuffle: In 2010, I kicked off an every-other-month storytelling event among friends. I want to set it aside with intention. More to come on that in the coming weeks but spoiler alert: I’ve learned what I want to from this, so I won’t be organizing live Story Shuffles as regularly anymore and have a strategy to go out with a bang. I do have a project for the six years of audio I have though.
- Blogging here: 2017 will be the 10th year (!) of me blogging regularly here. Though I’ve done so before, I pushed to get in the habit this year of writing in batches and scheduling long in advance, allowing for the occasionally more timely post. That has made writing regularly here far less of a lift. It’s a resolution from a few years ago that I’ve stuck to.
- Temple University digital marketing masters program — Starting in 2014, I played a limited role on an advisory committee to help launch a digital marketing masters degree at my alma mater. Early in 2016, I stepped aside.
- Temple University political science advisory committee — I graduated Temple with a political science degree but have always been more closely aligned with the school’s journalism program and business school, given the work I do (business news). That’s starting to change some, as an early mentor of mine as an undergrad has taken a leadership role with the program. She wants to widen the message of what you can do with a liberal arts degree and so is doing more outreach to people like me (hey thanks Dr. Kolodny!). I want to support this effort, though for now I had to pass on a more formal advisory role, despite my interests in her work.
- OpenDataPhilly.org advisory committee — Among my favorite professional accomplishments was being part of the early stakeholder group that helped form Philadelphia’s open data portal. The portal has gone through several forms, and I was excited that in its newest form its leadership is establishing a governance structure. Earlier this year, I joined in the group’s first advisory retreat, something I’d be glad to do again, but I felt it was best I skip out on the more permanent advisory group.
- Leadership Philadelphia — Among the groups that I have gained the most from, it has been Leadership, through a pair of programs, that have left me energized and better connected than any other. Its leader Liz Dow is a mentor of mine. Early in 2016, I hesitated greatly but turned down an opportunity to join the nonprofit’s board. This was likely the hardest of these efforts to limit my take-ons, and I do hope I might have a future chance but I’ve gotten to keep involved otherwise. Saying no to this, and to Liz, someone who means a great deal to me, shows how seriously I’m taking this. When I say yes to Liz, I want to offer my all.
- Influencing Action Movement mentorship — In 2016, I took on a more formal mentorship relationship with, somewhat unorthodoxly, an inspiring peer, rather than someone younger and less experienced than I am. We’ve shared a lot together, and I’ve gotten to know him well. The commitment is for a year and I’ll be honored to fulfill it, however I’ll likely take a break from following that, as I want to maintain two less formal mentor relationships I have.
- My block party — This is far less professional of course but after having a pair of co-organizers for my annual neighborhood block party, both moved off the block, leaving me on my own in 2016. I’m pledging to do a better job to get a clearer committee so the final effort doesn’t land on me.
I hope it’s clear that the common theme of all of these is that I actually care about them. I didn’t even think to list what I turned down that were less important to me. And so it’s hard: saying no to projects or efforts you do care about.
So what will I keep on?
Of course, nearly all of these involve commitments for much of this year, so the real reduction won’t come until later. Even still, I hope to remain a better board member with project-based Workshop School, in addition to my board membership with Coded by Kids and that pair of more informal mentorship roles that mean a lot to me. (I’m also putting some time into a more traditional, though modest, side business.)
Of course, by dropping projects I’ve had for years, I’ll also be able to create more personal time (writing! reading! speaking! learning!) — and, you know, maybe an experiment or three when the time is right.