Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being a Swap Mama

I'm in my third round of the Schnitzel & Boo Mini Swap (it just started) & my second round as a swap mama for it. However, before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to provide a little background.

This swap, originated and run by Kristi over at Schnitzel & Boo, is partly responsible for all my swap sign ups to date and is directly responsible for my volunteering as swap mama.Twice. I enjoyed the large group of people to follow, seeing their creations and listening to their buzz about the ups and downs of trying to make for partners they've never met. I shared in every one of those experiences in one way or another and I made new InstaGram friends and widened the number people I stalk (I mean, follow and praise!) greatly. :)

All that said when I went into round 2 of the the S&B swap, I put on my answers that I would help as a swap mama and lo and behold, a swap mama I became. WHAT A RIDE! 

(One more note before I forget, Karri over at Karri of Berries has a great post on being a swap participant. Give it a read. I've been guilty of one or two things on that list that I shouldn't do (like "I like everything") but mostly, it's a helpful guideline to get you thinking about answers for the next swap you sign up for.)

You might think being a mama is just checking in with your group of participants here and there and kind of keeping track of their progress and you are right.  It also means being organized (honestly, I don't remember yesterday so remembering who was on my list and who they were making for was always a blur).  For me, organization meant knowing how to read my excel spreadsheet that contained the makers and all their information as well as the receivers and all the answers to the swap questions! It meant knowing where everyone was in the process. Were they on track to finish on time, did they send their mini, did they receive their mini?  It meant answering questions along the way by participants and helping them get more info from the recipient if the maker was having difficulty finding much (some folks are less active on social media).  It also meant keeping track of people who had to drop out or those who did not receive a mini and being sure a Swap Angel was assigned and then that mini was made and received.  There were more, little things in this whole process but that's the gist.

I hated it.  Okay truth, only a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty part of me hated it. The part of me that felt unorganized and out of her depth at the beginning. But then, the part of me that gets a high off of organizing something, making a process and seeing it work, LOVED it.  I liked it so much so that I offered to be a mama again. I'm taking what I learned the first time around, applying it to this round and trusting that it will work so I have little fear of being stressed over this. 

So, if you are ever thinking about being a swap mama, here are some things that work as best practices for me. Modify them, make them your own. We aren't robots and what works for me is not always going to work for everyone else but I'm posting this just to consider, more of an FYI.

What works for me?
  1. Get ORGANIZED - Take the excel list sent with the detailed information & make a new sheet that contains the only info I really need in my quick searches. Add a couple columns for action items such as, confirmed partner received, mailed date, received date, etc.  
  2. RECORD my interactions with my group on the spreadsheet. For example, if Sally tells me she's travelling for work and will be mailing on the 20th instead of the 16th b/c she didn't have a chance to finish binding before she left, I can record it in a comment column and let her partner Jane know that it's mailing a couple days late (also recording by Jane's name). Between work and home life, I won't remember if I told Jane so noting that helps me.
  3. USE the resources available to you. I often screen shot my IG notification feed so I don't miss something I'm tagged on if I can't respond to it right away.  I also use the folders in my email. When I've responded to something, I will file the emails into the folder. That way, only the emails that I still need to act on are in my inbox.
  4. COMMUNICATE proactively with my group. If mail dates are arriving, I will ask my group to check in on how they are doing.  I'm a last minute worker so I tend to think a reminder of an upcoming deadline is a good thing.
  5. Be POSITIVE and PATIENT.  I can usually manage the first one but the second is a little more difficult some days.  I always try to remind myself that while I may be fielding 1600 questions at once, the person asking me one question does not know that and if it takes me 3 days to respond, she's likely feeling her ask has been overlooked or ignored and is reaching out to others. What to do? Figure out your reasonable response time. for me, I like to try to answer IG requests within a couple of hours. That is reasonable for my schedule but email takes longer.  If I know I wont be able to answer quickly, I at least try to respond quickly and give the person asking a time frame in which I will provide an answer.  You have no idea how quickly stress can be reduced for me and the person needing an answer, by taking a moment to do that.   
  6. TALK with the other mamas.  If you aren't sure something is going right or have questions about how you are handling things, ask the other mamas.  Because we are all different, they have invaluable input. Sometimes, you just need to let a little vent out so you can go back to being #4. Other times, the mamas will also help you stay on track with communications to your groups. 
That's it. Pretty simple, right?  Really, the spreadsheet work was the turning point for me last round. Trying to keep it all in email or IG made me go a little mad. As soon as I got smart about keeping it all in the source that came to me, it was simpler.  I hope this gives you ideas about what might work for you if you ever decide to become a swap mama and if you do, enjoy the ride.  It's actually pretty fun to interact with so many people as they stretch their creative talents.

Thanks, Kristi, for being responsible for bringing me so much joy in making minis, swapping them and, yes, in letting me do it all while also getting my "organize on".