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Avoid Groundhog Day: Preventing Boredom at an Association

Posted by Katherine Mandusic Finley, Ph.D., CAE, CFRE, CMP on Jul 16, 2014 10:30:00 AM

Oftentimes association executives and staff feel like they are stuck in the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day." It’s not that the work we do can’t be exciting and provide great satisfaction, but associations by nature have repetitive tasks that can lead to boredom or stagnation for employees.


Each year, we host an annual meeting or meetings, bill dues, thank our volunteers and donors, hold elections, produce publications, hold board meetings, etc. 

Sometimes we fall into a routine only because we have so much work to do, and it is easier to do everything just like the year before because we don’t have time to shake things up. And occasionally, we feel like Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, who in the movie doesn’t like his assignment of covering the event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and only grudgingly and routinely does his work. He then gets stuck in a time warp and finds himself repeating Groundhog’s Day over and over again. Nothing changes, day after day, until he changes and instead of concentrating on himself and the task at hand, he began helping others and improving himself.  It is then and only then, does he break the time loop and finally get what he wants from life.

How can we avoid being stuck in a time loop, or to quote Yogi Berra, keep from feeling like “It’s deja vu all over again”?   Keep in mind, I’m not advocating changing everything or creating a crisis.  Below are just a few ideas to keep you from becoming bored and tasks becoming too repetitive. The results will pay off in improved services to members.

  1. Pretend all your letters and templates have been destroyed in a fire. So instead of just going to old thank you letters, welcome letters, and member recruitment letters, ask yourself what information needs to be conveyed and then write new letters and reports.
  2. Attend a webinar, conference, or seminar. ISAE offers a variety of value-priced options for networking and learning like the annual convention, workshops, roundtables, shared interest groups, etc. Most likely, you will learn something new that can “spice things up.” If you can’t find or afford any professional education (although there are low cost or free opportunities), call up a colleague in another association and go to lunch; or better yet, make it a habit to meet once a month with several colleagues to discuss business and brainstorm about new ideas. ISAE also offers a 5:05 p.m. social event where members and prospective members can build and maintain relationships with those who work in the industry.
  3. Find ways to make staff meeting informative, productive and FUN. Here are a few ways to inspire your team to be more innovative. 
  4. Encourage team work by creating teams to re-look at routine association functions; maybe even offer a prize for the team or staff member coming up with the best new idea or improvement to an existing service.
  5. Your publications are probably branded so you don’t want to change the design, but see if you can work to add more or different stories or columns to the design and change the order of the presentation.  In other words, try to keep the publication fresh and exciting.
  6. Develop ideas to make your conventions or annual meetings exciting. Even academic conferences can have interesting and exciting events built into them.

Hopefully, you can share with us ideas you have on how to stop boredom at an association when doing routine work so you aren’t stuck repeating Groundhog Day.


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