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Keep Calm & Carry On (At a Distance)

By Dan Ekstein

I left an office job nine years ago – and it was not a decision I made lightly, or without anxiety. Initially, I was emotional about the thought of not having a dedicated place to work and not having co-workers close by to bounce ideas off. It did not help when someone told me they hoped I was not going to “count pencils” at home.

I felt untethered until I came up with a plan and a daily routine.

Here is what I’ve learned about distance working and how to successfully manage your PAC and advocacy programs.

Get Dressed or Not. This one should be self-explanatory. You wouldn’t get on the metro in pajamas. You should not wear them in your home office either. Working remotely gives you the chance to dress casually but prepare for video conferences! Social distancing DOES NOT mean social isolation.

Stick With Your Plan. You and your team already identified the advocacy and PAC goals you are working toward for this election year. The general elections on November 3 are still coming, and campaigns are still operating, even if from campaign staffers’ homes. So, stick with your plan, if you can. Of course, we need to be sensitive to the environment we’re in. If over the coming months, it appears your metrics will not be met, be proactive and transparent about them with your teams, but for now, keep working toward the mile markers you set.

Work the List. Before you leave the “office” (i.e., kitchen table) each night, outline tasks for the next day. This includes exercise, meals and chores. Designate time for work, household and personal responsibilities. For many, working the list over the next few weeks will also mean helping our school-age children work on their own. Try to set boundaries between each activity. It will reduce stress for everyone if you are not trying to multitask (too much). In the PAC and advocacy world, working the list is essential because a lot of our work requires completing large and small tasks. With organizations acclimating to a new normal over the coming weeks, staying focused and adjusting your to-do lists in real-time is critical.

Stay in Touch. Yes, we are skipping lunches and coffees, but there are still ways to stay in touch. Instead of just texting, pick up the phone. As all of my friends and clients know, the most impactful way to educate and encourage PAC participation is through live conversations. While face-to-face meetings may not be feasible over the coming weeks – the phone is the best next option. The phone is your friend. Use it.

Anxiety and Boredom Are Your Allies. If you continuously worry about not getting things done, chances are you will not get things done. Instead of dwelling, turn the anxiety into momentum and focus. And, boredom? Well, we all know it breeds creativity, which we are going to need in this new normal. Meeting our annual PAC and advocacy goals will be more difficult in the short term, but it can be done. Take some time each day to brainstorm. Now is the time to be creative. Your team will appreciate your ability to duck and jab to keep your programs moving.

Say Thank You. We are all experiencing anxiety – and we will continue to for the coming weeks. Tell a client or co-worker thank you. Thank your PAC and advocacy members. Thank your PAC board. Loyalty and gratitude matter more now than ever before.

You will be surprised how productive you can be from a home office. Almost a decade later, I have no idea how many pencils we have at home, and I’ve bought many more since.

Dan Ekstein is a partner at Sagac Public Affairs, a national firm that provides communications, market research, fundraising and issue advocacy solutions to hundreds of political, nonprofit and corporate organizations. Sagac and Ekstein are industry leaders in the implementation of comprehensive strategies for political finance operations. The firm’s clients represent more than one-third of all federal qualified funds raised each election cycle by corporate and trade association PACs.

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