Category Archives: Soni’s Having Fun

Retreats, team holidays, goofing off and other Americorps fun.

Keeping my hand in

The Americorps Alums chapter I belong to here in Asheville is sponsoring an essay contest for students in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The winner will get a ticket to the swanky MLK Day breakfast, and some other prizes like a gift certificate and whatnot (those haven’t been finalized yet).

Knowing that I’m a writer by trade, the chapter leader asked me to help out by writing up the flyer/handout that goes out to the students explaining the contest. It was fun, easy and felt good to be doing something to keep my hand in with my Americorps program. It’s that whole “Lifetime of Service” thing – it sounds cheesy sometimes when you say it, but it really is nice to be a part of something that continues after your year or two of service is up.

Anyway, just wanted to share what I’m up to. I can’t wait to see the essays when they come in (I think I remember volunteering to help judge, as well; I may live to regret that 😀 ).


My interview in the WE: Magazine for Women blog

Sorry for the radio silence – I took my computer to the shop for a diagnostic that ended up taking almost a week. Talk about your junkie withdrawals. *shudder*

Anyway, to get things back into the groove, here’s a link to an interview I did a few months back with WE: Magazine for Women, that’s just now made it into print. It’s basically just me talking about me, my writing work and my Americorps service.

The formatting is a little wonky and I do tend to go on a bit (when I edit myself, I end up doing a lot of machete work through acres of run-on sentences that tend to clog up my first-run writing like bloated bits of conversational silly string), but it’s not half bad, all things considered, and I don’t come off sounding like too much of a dork. 😀

WE Magazine for Women’s Meet Soni Pitts of Getting Things Done Blog

Things I did this year for the first time

Spending a year in Americorps is a great way to learn and do new things. Here is a woefully incomplete list of some of the things that I did for the very first (and maybe only) time as part of this year’s Americorps service.

This is, at best, an extremely abridged list – I’ve skipped over a lot of little things and no doubt I’ve missed some biggies that just aren’t coming to mind right now. But that will give you an idea of the breadth and depth of new experiences that I went through in just one year (and doesn’t take into account the stuff I learned during my first year with Habitat for Humanity).

For those of you just now coming into Americorps, I’ve got just one bit of advice: buckle your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen, you’re in for a crazy ride.

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Time Management for Busy Volunteers: 5 Ways To Keep Volunteering From Ruining Your Busy Schedule

I know how it is – you’re a busy person with a lot of stuff on your plate. And yet, it’s so hard to turn down those requests to help out when the sign-up sheets get passed around, especially when your “socially conscious” boss is watching. So here you are once again, facing an afternoon (or even an entire day) of volunteering that’s torpedoing your schedule faster than a Russian sub at a fundraising raft race.

Well, no more!

Follow these simple tips to streamline your volunteer activities and I guarantee you’ll never have to worry about juggling volunteerism and your jam-packed schedule again.

1. Show Up When You Get Around To It

Look, everyone’s going to be getting there all at once and it’s going to be chaos. Plus they’ll probably be doing some sort of (yawn) orientation for the zip-heads. But you know how to find your way around a simple work site and crowds give you hives. Besides, it’s not like you’re getting paid or anything. If you wanted to punch a clock, you’d be at work, right? So, take your time, field a few more calls, catch a few extra Z’s – whatever. The work will still be there when you get there.

Oh, and if you are going to be late, please – don’t bother calling. Your volunteer coordinator is going to be up to her neck in idiots trying to figure out how to work the sign-in pen. Don’t pester her. She’ll figure it out sooner or later on her own, anyway.

2. Instructions Are For Zip-Heads

You’ve finally gotten there and signed in (printing takes forever, so avoid that time-wasting trap and stick to your normal scrawl…they’ll be able to read your handwriting just fine). But now some granola-crunching hippy is holding everyone up by rattling off a list of unnecessary instructions and “duh” safety tips.

Blah, blah, blah. You’re not a five-year-old – you’re just going to be pounding nails and hanging siding. How hard could it be? Besides, you’ve done this before and know a few shortcuts. So use the orientation time to get in a few more vital text messages, and then do it the way you know how to do it – who knows, maybe they’ll learn something. Let the sheeple do it the hard way.

3. Don’t Let The Organizers Drop The Ball

What ball? Any ball. It’s their job to keep this gig running smoothly, so if you see something wrong (not enough ice for the free refreshments, their selection of tools is not up to par, there’s some clue-free loser who insists on doing everything the hard way in charge of your team, etc), make sure you let them know. And don’t back down if they don’t immediately fix the situation. You’re doing the organizers a favor by keeping the support volunteers from slacking off. The site would grind to a halt if someone didn’t keep an eye on things.

4. Rules Are For Clients, Not Volunteers

Sure, those poor people getting the food boxes have to take what you give them. But dude, you’ve been here shelving donations all day. Why shouldn’t you load yourself up a box of the good stuff on your way out? You deserve it! And it’ll save you a trip to the store on the way home, so you won’t have to leave off volunteering early to do that. They should be grateful.

5. Leave Early Anyway

You’ve got things to do and people to see. Messing around with clean-up and whatnot is just going to slow you down. The rest of the team won’t mind if you slip out a bit early – they know you’ve got important stuff hanging on the line. And if you leave now, you won’t have to fight the crowd to get out of parking, and that’ll cut at least 5 minutes off the time it takes you to get to the gym.

Bringing It All Together

The key to keeping your volunteer activities from cutting into your busy schedule boils down to one word – priorities. What’s more important – your schedule, or all that other stuff? Seriously, weekend plans do not make themselves!

Cutting corners, shaving time and making sure the support team knows who they’re here to serve will keep you from wasting your talents and cooling your heels doing pointless busy-work. Once you’ve turned this time management system into a habit, streamlining your volunteerism to minimize schedule disruption will be as easy as falling off a ladder.

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1700 hours completed – wooohooo!

I was getting antsy about the upcoming juggling act between the service year ending on Tue, but my timesheets not being ready until afterward if I was going to have to record them until the end of my service. After emailing my program coordinator about it, she said that most of us would have our hours done before the end of the month, and if we did we could turn them in before.

So, I went back and put all of my hours to date into the timesheet spreadsheet (I usually save that task for the last day) and…

Wooohoooo! I actually completed my hours sometime in the middle of Tuesday the 17th!

*snoopy dance*

Not only does this mean I successfully completed my term of service (which I wasn’t actually worried about), but it means I don’t have to play shell games with my timesheets and exit interview on top of handling my ongoing assignment responsibilities and getting to a doctor’s appt on my last day. Sweet!

Next stop, graduation!

Edit: For prospective Americorps members, please note that finishing your time before your service year is up means nothing but the fact that you may be able to turn in paperwork early, or that if you break your leg or something that puts you out of work, you’re covered. It does not mean you quit showing up for work or coast out your last days, weeks or (dear heavens, when did you sleep?) months.

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Welcom to our newest Americorps member!

Americorps baby

Woohoo! One of our Americorps team members gave birth to a healthy baby girl this morning!

Welcome to the team, little one. I hope you’ve got your last 9 months worth of timesheets in order…

Look, ma…I’m a mediator!

can callz a negosheeators?

[live reenactment above*]

Completed my first live mediation tonight, and it was a success!

I was scared spitless going in, but my co-mediator was a real pro whose style worked very well with my own personality, and the process went as smooth as silk. Sweet!

No details, of course (confidentiality and all that), but it involved the custody of a small animal who is loved intensely by several different people and not at all amenable to being split in half (or more). Solomonic wisdom notwithstanding, I think it finally worked out in everybody’s best interest, including the little heartbreaker’s.

*A note to sensitive readers: The comments that were alongside the source photo indicate that the object of adoration above is a toy bird, not a real one. No animals were injured in the making of this post.

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