For many people, political engagement has never felt more important—or more anxiety-inducing. Therapists and psychologists unofficially coined a new term for what they were seeing in their patients: “Post-Election Stress Disorder.”
Your social media feeds are as impassioned as ever, making it all too tempting to tune out completely. The emotionally-charged state of affairs, plus a never-ending whirlwind of to-do’s related to your job (that has nothing to with politics) can make it overwhelming to consider adding political advocacy and engagement to your already (very full) plate.
So, what’s a busy and stressed yet fired-up-about-lots-of-issues person to do? How can you engage in ways that are meaningful—but also manageable?
As co-founder and COO of the All In Together Campaign, I work every day with busy women on both sides of the aisle to help them effectively advocate on behalf of the issues they care about most.
Here are four of my top tips for fitting political advocacy into your schedule.
1. Pick One or Two Areas of Focus
Many of us care about a wide range of issues—and it just feels like too much to tackle in a limited amount of time. Instead, identify the one to two issues you want to work on.
- What are my main voting issues?
- To what issues do I give my time (volunteering) or resources (charitable contributions)?
- What issues affect my community (or me, personally)?
- Is there a topic on which I have professional expertise?
- What issues do I feel are most urgent?
The answer that pops up again and again is where you should start. Remember, you don’t have to engage on behalf of every issue you care about. Choose one to get start building your advocacy muscle.
Don’t feel guilty about unsubscribing to newsletters from organizations covering other subjects. If you’re too busy and stressed to read them anyhow, clearing them out will make room for you to spend time on the things you care about most.
2. Block Time on Your Calendar
If you’re like me, if it’s not on the calendar, it won’t happen. Block off time for the issues you care about, just like you would for a meeting, a workout class, or drinks with friends. Even 30 minutes a week—or even per month if weekly seems overwhelming—is enough.
Unsure what to do with that time? Here are some action items:
- Educate yourself on current policy or bills in your interest area
- Call your rep’s office to share your opinion. (You can use the All In Together Action Center to call, email, or set up meetings with your reps directly. Save your political officials’ numbers in your phone so you don’t have to look them up every time!)
- Donate money to a relevant organization
- Volunteer your time
3. Start Local
Many people are so focused on what’s happening at the federal level (a.k.a., what the president and Congress are doing), that they can forget there are multiple levels of representation: federal, state, and local.
Do you know your State senator? State representative? City council member?
You may think of those representatives as minor league players, but they have mega influence and often mega budgets (for example, New York City’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 was $84.86 billion—with a “b”).
Use your 30 minutes of action this week to research who your state and local reps are, what they’re focused on, and when they’re up for election. Turnout at local elections is so horrendously low that many of the representatives run unopposed. For example: The turnout for 2014 midterm elections was the lowest voter turnout in the U.S. in 70 years. Let’s change that!
4. Use Your Professional Skills
You don’t need to learn how to be an advocate from scratch. You already have skills you use in the office that you can leverage for effective advocacy.
Event planners know how to pull together a powerful and flawless gathering; marketers and communications experts are fantastic at galvanizing people; accountants can ensure everything stays on budget; and the list goes on.
Identify how you can uniquely contribute to the cause by leveraging your specialized skill set. If there’s an upcoming election in your community, reach out to a local campaign and offer up your skills as a volunteer (the same way you would a non-profit or charity).
Since your goal is to be politically active and keep your job, keep in mind that different companies have different policies. As you think about how political advocacy fits into your schedule, don’t forget to pay attention to things like whether you’re allowed to engage in these activities from your desk. (This article lays out whether you can get fired for talking politics at work.)
Regardless of what you decide to do—big or small—creating the time to do something will help you to feel like you’re making a difference.
Photo of people talking courtesy of Luis Alvarez/Getty Images.
Courtney is the co-founder and chief operating officer at All In Together Campaign, the only non-partisan women’s organization committed to ensuring that women have the tools, guidance and resources they need to fully engage in the political process. Courtney has advised Fortune 500 companies on diversity and inclusion, and co-authored Vaulting the Color Bar: How Sponsorship Levers Multicultural Individuals into Leadership during her tenure as Vice President at the Center for Talent Innovation. Her past speaking engagements include Oxford University’s Power Shift Summit, the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, Professional Business Women of California and the YWCA of NYC.More from this Author