I just got off the phone with someone that I haven’t spoken with in over a year. I don’t know if this is the case for any others of you independent evaluators out there, but for me I have this happen often. There are relationships that develop and preliminary work begins and just never gets anywhere. We lose touch, then time passes and I’ll get an email or a phone call saying “remember me?” and we start trying again. I’ve had this happen several times now over my career and eventually something takes.
I have a relationship with a software company that I’ve had for going on several years now and just about every project I walk into I’m thinking how can I connect these two dots? Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hopeful one day it will!
So, back to the resumed relationship, this gentleman is in New Orleans and has been down there now for a couple of years working in the trenches with folks desperately trying to carve out a life for themselves in the midst of tragedy upon tragedy. He said it is hard not to get emotional about the violence, the despair, the lack of infrastructure to support genuinely hard working people who just want a life for themselves and their families. He shared that there are great ideas but no access to support.
I have been working and trying to take some time off, hence the gaps in the blogging, but realize when these conversations raise their heads that our work as evaluators, as social and human service workers, truly never ends. But rather than see this as some unattainable goal that will never be reached, see it as a slow developing process that needs attention differently at different stages. Sometimes it is the initiation, the tilling the soil, the planting the seeds, then at others it is the watering, while still later some weeding must occur, eventually some type of harvest emerges, but very soon thereafter a new crop is ready to be planted. It is a perpetual cycle that I believe feeds us both physically and metaphorically, and we get smarter and smarter with each iteration. Not sure when the next post will be as the summer months have me distracted, but once school starts back I will be at it more regularly.
In the meantime, remember our work is like the lifecycle and there is no end to it, only entries and exits, slow growth and quick starts, heavy times and lighter ones, followed by endings and new beginnings. Enjoy the summer…but don’t stop the work!
Today’s thoughts are about our physical limitations. What, literally are we capable of doing? I have friends and colleagues who can get by on 4-6 hours of sleep…never been me! I need at least 8 and love 9 hours. However, that isn’t feasible when you’re running the life I live. Full time grad student, full time evaluation consultant, and full time mom…how is that possible? Grace. So, what I must do in order to be able to sustain the lifestyle is know my physical limitations! Opportunities for travel and fun come up often and sometimes they are the right decision and sometimes they are not. It is important to know your body, recognize hunger and exhaustion and honor them. Don’t go too long without eating or without catching up on sleep. Your body will get what it needs one way or another!
When we drive ourselves too hard our bodies rebel. That’s when we get sick and then end up in the bed anyway! So, don’t let things get out of control. Know yourself. Watch your eating habits, don’t stress if there are times when you eat more and notice how it wanes and you eat less for a few days/weeks. Honor times when you have energy for what seems like days on end to endure deadlines and reports, but understand that your body will need rest at some point. Plan for it. I’ve been working out with a trainer now for over a year and that has done wonders for my stamina, consider that for yourself. If not a trainer, some type of exercise routine, it helps relieve stress and builds endurance. Vitamins are another important key, making sure, as I know we don’t eat all of our fruits and veggies as we should daily, that you are getting whole foods vitamins that will bring your body’s levels where they need to be to keep you healthy!
Realize that there are things that you simply may not ever be able to do or handle physically and this is NOT a weakness, it is simply how you are designed. Don’t focus on the things you can’t do, as always, focus on those that you can and enhance them! This allows you to show up to all meetings in the physical and mental condition necessary to handle the complex work we do. If you are tired or hungry you can’t focus. Don’t rob your clients of your full abilities by not recognizing your own limitations!
Those of us who work with small non-profits are watching them struggle under the pressure of our current economic situation. What can we, as evaluators, do to help them when they can barely keep the lights on? Evaluation, whether or not we want to admit it, is a luxury, most social and human service agencies are doing the best they can to serve their clients and keep the staff paid. There is not money for “evaluation” during these times…or is there? What I’m finding useful as we all make our way through these trim economic waters is that the little things matter. Now is the time to check and see what data processes are in place, which ones are working? Which ones are taking too much time for the staff to use? As an evaluation consultant I’m finding just a 20 minute conversation with my clients can help them focus on a small particular aspect of their current operations that can be improved, streamlined, or done away with completely. These are the times to look inside!! Stay tuned…this week is going to be focused on tiny tips for independent evaluation consultants who are trying to support their client base in lean times.