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Preparing for a New Year in the Arts

The new year is a natural time to think about the past, present, and future. It’s why we have New Year’s resolutions. They’ve become a regular holiday staple, infiltrating social media posts, chit chat at the office water cooler, holiday dinners with family, and cocktail reception banter. And resolutions mean business. Fitness facilities bank on us tapping into a new-found resolve to hit the gym in January, just as restaurant weeks begin anew to tempt us to abandon our post-holiday exercise plans! 

It’s a vicious cycle to break, and as arts leaders, we also face this tug-of-war to find balance in our professional duties. In January, we are often recovering from a busy holiday programming season and gearing up for spring events, budget meetings, or conference planning. But when do we set aside a moment or two to think retrospectively about our professional selves? When do we find time to make visionary plans for the future of our organizations? When does infrastructure become stronger and capacity broader if not at those key opportunities for reflection? The difference between “working on your business” versus “working in your business” applies here.

So many times arts professionals are charged with such monumental tasks that treading water is the norm, and taking in the ocean landscape is an elusive ambition. It can feel like stopping to think about the big picture is time ill spent. But considering the way things happen, in addition to ensuring that they do happen, might present some methods for keeping your head and shoulders above water, rather than being neck deep at all times.

Here are some tips for personal and organizational resolutions that might make your seasons increasingly organized, less stressful, and perhaps a little more enjoyable:

1. Make a work plan.

Block out 30 minutes each week to sit with your to-do list. Friday afternoons are often a good time for this. This way, you can walk in on Monday morning with a fresh start and the energy to tackle what you must (and want to) do. You won’t have to spend your day wrapping your head around where you left off, what’s left on each project, whose response you’re waiting for, or which partners you need to contact. Your work week will be full of accomplished goals and indicators of productivity.

2. Consider your work day. 

Do you take a lunch break? Sometimes taking twenty minutes away from your desk is the energy boost you need to give the rest of the day your fullest attention. Talk with your colleagues over soup and salad, or visit the local sandwich shop together. Discover something new about each other, and enjoy the company of people outside the “work zone.”

3. Implement a planning meeting with your team.

That means your staff, board members, supervisors, department, artists, or other colleagues at a partner organization. Thirty minutes or an hour each month can work wonders in connecting you to the world in which you live and work. Our friends in the arts help remind us why we do this work and show us how far our efforts reach.

4. Revisit your strategic plan.

What are the strategic priorities guiding your activities? Do you, your staff, your board, and your audience members know the organization’s mission? Is it time to update an expired strategic plan? Capacity building grants are available from the Ohio Arts Council for strategic planning, collaborative programming, and strengthening infrastructure. Be ambitious.

5. Dream.

Brainstorm (without logistics holding you back) for 30 minutes a week. Ask yourself what you as a member of the arts community would like to see for the future of your organization, yourself as a professional, your mentors, your interns, and your audiences. Paint that pie-in-the-sky vision first, and then find the tools and materials you need to complete the masterpiece.

Sometimes it can be daunting to think about overhauling your work life, regardless of whether it will present an outcome better than where you started. Like any large task, though, taking things little by little is a great way to begin. Try doing one of the things on this list. Once you are in the habit of doing that one thing, try adding another. But most of all, enjoy the process. Reflect on the successes, and also the challenges that come with working on the business. 

Enjoy the holiday season and know that I look forward to beginning a new year with you! Together we are making a positive difference in the world through the arts.

 Until next time,
Donna Collins' signature

 Donna S. Collins
 Executive Director

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