Dan's Corner with Director of Training and Publications Dan Loomis


That’s how going back to school always felt to me. It was exciting, but also something I would have preferred not to do.

The night before school started I was always a ball of nerves. So many unknowns to think about, “What would my teacher be like?”, “Who would I sit next to in class?”, “Is this the year we stop having recess???” There seemed to be so many questions it was hard to focus on any one of them for very long because another one would quickly pop into my head.

Young Dan LoomisFinally the sun would rise and it would be time for me to walk to school (not uphill both ways though, if you were wondering). As I got to school and found my class, I realized nothing stood between me and my future except a one-inch thick door. I had put it off for long enough, there was nothing left to do but open the door and see… all my friends from last year! “Maybe this won’t be so bad” I thought as I walked past my smiling teacher to sit at the desk next to my best friend. Turns out that the waiting and anticipating was the hardest part. Once I walked through that door, everything else just fell into place. (And sure enough, recess would be right after lunch.)

Where to start?

It doesn’t matter what the situation is, it can be natural for us to want to avoid trying new things. Having a defined start date like a new school year is one thing, but when the option to proceed is up to us, the result might be that we never start. This paralysis isn’t because we don’t think it’s important, though, just the opposite. It’s so important, and we have such an idealistic view of what the project should become, we aren’t sure where to start. The same voice that keeps us up worrying about the first day of school comes back, questioning “What if things don’t go as planned?”

Tackling your association’s big projects

While going back-to-school can be a time full of unknowns for a student, tackling big projects like refreshing your training materials, can be a time full of unknowns for your association. And, similar to any important event or project, getting started can be something that ends up being avoided. “Creating new training materials” is a great goal and sounds simple enough when you use it in a sentence, but once you sit down to work on it, you can feel that familiar excited/uncertain paralysis start to creep in.

So while your association has a laundry list of changes to make to your course materials, you don’t know where to start, and your to-do list grows longer.

The secret to handling a big, important project is to not think of it as a “big, important project”. Really, what you need to do is complete a lot of smaller tasks that come together to have a big impact for your members. So while “refreshing your course materials” may be your goal, you should think about the individual tasks that make up that goal. For example, your to-do list might include:

  • Update your course text to reflect any new industry developments
  • Re-format the page layout to make certain concepts clearer
  • Create eye-catching artwork to strengthen your association’s brand
  • Etc.

Now, instead of having an undefined project to be overwhelmed by, you have a series of tasks to tackle and will see real progress made.

It isn’t always the easiest choice, but completing the big nerve-wracking project is an important part of life, for you and your association. You can’t grow and learn without overcoming the fear of the first day of class, and you can’t help your association without overcoming the fear of tackling the big projects. Maybe what’s waiting on the other side of your to-do list is actually not that scary. Maybe you’ll find the familiar faces of your members on the other side, excited to see you and appreciate the value you provide.

About Omnipress

Omnipress delivers educational content for associations and other organizations. Digital and print solutions for in-person, virtual, and hybrid conferences and training programs.

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