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Oly’s Work Hacks: How to Make Work Less Work (Blog 3 of 4)

continued from Blog Part 2…

I get asked a lot, “How do you do it?!?!” And by a lot, I mean multiple times a day. Sometimes this is in reference to my energy level in a meeting, other times in response to a deliverable we have produced for a client, and other times in response to an idea or insight that I blurt out in the moment during a client conversation. This is my first ever attempt to categorize my answers in a blog series called “Oly’s Work Hacks.” In this series, I focus on how I purposely pursue choices that make work less work. I have always found excitement and joy in my work but have never been so satisfied with my job until I started my company. In fact, the move to go on my own was a result of wise decisions I made in response to self-directed inquiries about who? where? when? what? why? and how? I work. I took time to ask myself, “What makes my work less work?” I encourage you to think about these same questions for yourself.

I revealed the “who,” “where” and “when” hacks in previous blogs which can be found here. So today, I’ll tell you about my “what” hacks.


“So, What Do You Do?”

I love this question because it’s posed to each of us daily. Like my answer to “How do you do it?!?!,” it’s easy to lie, be lazy, or deflect as your answer. I have a close friend (you know who you are) who is pondering this very question seriously and systematically over a series of months because she is so intrigued by how she doesn’t have an answer to that question right now. All I can say is, she’s a genius to be making this a priority. We should all make this a priority too.

You Have Clues to What You’d Do

It’s really fun to think of dream jobs. I thought as a kid I wanted to be a chef. I also thought I wanted to be a paleontologist. Not only are those two jobs extremely different, but I don’t have the temperament for either one of them. I consider myself lucky that I chose a major that is not extremely versatile but did feed a large portion of my strengths and interest. But I found it only by luck as a 16 year old as I paged through a behemoth printed Peterson’s Guide to College at a Barnes & Noble. If someone or something would have helped me key into what I was already wired to do, I could have chosen a different minor, avoided business school, and selected high school summer jobs and college internships that didn’t make me want to hit the snooze button. Like many, many times. For three summers I did physical labor outside with my dad, which was tedious, hot, and lonely. Sounds a lot like a paleontologist.

Thankfully, I haven’t hit that snooze button in 20 years.

Seek What Your Who Wants to Do

Your body will always give you clues as to whether your what is good for you. Do I sound like a broken record yet?

Even while doing certain tasks, you can key into your energy. Others will, too. So pay attention while you work on various tasks throughout the day. Are you drained after a lunch meeting or after an afternoon of spreadsheets? What tasks are always at the end of your to-do list each day? Whatever you want to do first is usually something you are good at doing. Your weaknesses fall to the bottom of the list.

If you want to get even more serious about tuning in to your body, I suggest a mindfulness class focusing on the body scan. It’s life changing and humbling to realize we’re all walking around as our own tuning fork, and most of the time, we shamelessly ignore it.

I have also always loved using structured tools to help me refine what I am best at doing. Formal feedback sessions from clients, mentors, and supervisors are great at getting to this, and so are performance evaluations, if you take them to heart. I’m a fan of building on strengths, not building up weaknesses. For individuals or teams who are really unsure what they want to do, I recommend seeking counsel from those who can administer the Strong Interest Inventory, Myers- Briggs Type Indicator, 360-degree performance assessments, or the DiSC Personality Test.

As a fun and abbreviated team builder, I consistently deploy Superpowers by SY Partners with my clients and boards. For entrepreneurs, I highly recommend the book Traction by Gene Wickman, which was recommended to me by Advisory Council member Sally Bryant after it made a huge impact on her company (she also administered my DiSC test). See, I took advice from a mentor who knows we are DiSC twins. And it worked.

Your What is your Differentiator

When you truly listen to yourself, other people, and outside assessments, your what will become very clear. So will your differentiators. There may be millions of people who also do your what. But none of them are YOU. What is unique about YOU in this space? The activities above all have allowed me to know what is different about working with me:

  • I have an MBA but work in the nonprofit space. I earned my MBA from Rice University 23 years ago. Even looking at their most recent graduate data, fewer than 3% of their graduates go to work at a nonprofit. And that’s a high estimate, given that Rice doesn’t even have a category for the nonprofit industry and the best I can assume is that it is part of the industry called “Other.” Our industry is so rare that we don’t even get our own category. “Other” is right.

  • I just came from the in-house fundraising position that most of my clients are in. Also rare. Many of my competitors have only consulted, or consulted for so long that the feeling of an impending aggressive fundraising goal paired with a staff that constantly turns over is not still fresh in their minds.

  • I use more dashboards, KPIs, and data than most for profits. Thank you, Rice University, for this!

  • I am a revenue generator that loves using databases. Just ask your favorite rainmaker the last time they logged their lunch meeting into their system. They will usually laugh. Or say someone else did it for them. Or even better, not even have a login.

  • I know we are all good at fundraising and that fundraising comes in endless forms and can be adapted for any Who. It’s not a secret club, secret talent, and has no secret handshake. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying and trying to perpetuate a myth (or their own ego and/or consulting practice).

  • I’m unapologetically obsessed with emojis. 🔮

  • I model donor stewardship for my clients by treating them like my donors (NEWS FLASH: THEY ARE MY DONORS)

  • I believe fundraising success is ultimately a function of board health. So I am a fundraising counsel with BoardSource governance certification. This could also be an entire year’s worth of blogs IMHO. I cannot overemphasize this bullet point. And this is fully the product of my lucky choice of a college major: Organizational Development.

  • When you become one of my clients, team members, or Advisory Council members, you instantly become part of a larger Collective family. I connect my clients to each other and our Advisory Council. We have game nights, holiday gift exchanges, meditation classes, and free fundraising training sessions. Soon we’ll get back to in person gatherings, too.

  • I don’t just have core values; I am my core values.

My competitors can’t replicate the combination of items listed above. Nor should they–they should be their own who and what!

So the more I use this to answer “What Do You Do?”, the more I find people, places, and projects lining up at my door that seem like divine intervention. Or is it?

Bottom line: Your who knows what to do.

Want More of our Food for Thought Blog? 🍭

This blog is part three of a four-part series titled Oly’s Work Hacks. Our blog is called Food for Thought and can be found on our webpage at

The final Oly’s Work Hacks blog four is due in mid-October and will focus on the “why” and “how” hacks. Click here to have our next blog delivered directly to your inbox.

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Founded and led by nonprofit fundraiser Olympia Ammon, The Olympia Collective specializes in nonprofit revenue generation, board & staff support, and data & insights. We empower our clients to deliver maximum impact to the communities they serve. We are women-owned and value-driven, headquartered in Los Angeles, but serve the world.

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