Nonprofit Summer Exercise 7: A Word A Day


I have been so happy to hear from so many of you – on Twitter and through email – about things you’ve been thinking about and accomplishing this summer. I’m so glad that this series has been helpful for some of you who wanted to take the time to reflect and sharpen your tools! 

Exercise 7: A Word A Day

Chances are you have to write a lot at your job, right? Writing may not even be “your thing” but it is something you nonetheless do – and need to do well – on a regular basis. And even if, like me, you’ve been pretty much writing since birth, it can start to feel like a bit of a headache some days.


Well regardless of whether or not you’d rather be face to face with a donor or if you were born with a pen in your hand, it is sometimes really hard to stay motivated. Writing is difficult, no matter who you are, and writing something that will inspire your readers requires you to stay sharp.

There is so much writing advice out there, and in future posts I’ll dole out some of my own, but for now I have a really simple exercise that isn’t for your donors, your board, your stakeholders.

It’s just for you. 


Pick yourself up a little pocket-sized notebook, and begin writing one word a day. If you’re ambitious, make it one line or phrase.

Why just one?

Life is crazy. We’re told we shouldn’t be “busy braggers” but the truth is that as time passes, there is more to do and less time to do it. We can always rejig our schedules to take back time for ourselves, and verily this is what Nonprofit Summer is really all about. But we start in the middle of things, and busy-ness, exhaustion and stress often rob us of the ability to truly reflect.

A few years ago, I started a word a day journal – forcing myself to, at the very least, take a minute to write literally just one word. The word was a tiny reflection of the day. Some days, it was really easy. Others, it was down right impossible. Some days, I struggled to only use one word (or phrase) to encapsulate the roller coaster I had just been on. Sometimes, it was just a person’s name.

My hope is that you can give yourself time and space for that one word or sentence – not to make notes about work, or write a quick email to a colleague or client – but completely for yourself.

Why is just one enough? Why is it important?

In roles where we are forced to bend our boundaries and often become vulnerable because of it, even one sentence that is fully and completely our own is powerful.

It also helps us learn to hone our message. Often, we use too many words to say what we should be saying in few. We could bitch and rant for hours about how crappy our day was, but sometimes simply learning to write “livid” or “bag of smashed assholes” should suffice.

Or, perhaps one wonderful thing happened on that crap day that made us remember how fortunate we are allows us to simply say “gratitude.”

Reflection is strength. Simplicity trumps complexity, always. And a secret word or two is sacred, playful space.