I tend to over-do a lot of things. You know how some people are… over plan, over commit, classic type A personality profile things. And then, it happens, I start to resent the thing I was so passionate about volunteering for.
It all seems to start innocently enough. I would find an organization that I felt strongly about. One that is doing good work, perhaps one that will help me build my business network, or one that just makes me feel like I’m making a difference. I like volunteering, I like to think that all of us have an altruistic side (though some don’t let it show) and for me, giving to others just makes all the tough times seem easier. But, what does one do when giving to others starts to build resentment? when it starts to take too much time and begins to exhaust you rather than fulfill you? What does one do when giving to others becomes a drain rather than a fountain?
In June, I was blessed to be attending the annual Alumni Leaders Conference at my alma mater (yes, another volunteer commitment). It’s alwasy enriching and rejuvenating to be surrounded by others who are as passionate about Indiana University as I am — and who are as commited to serving our various communities through our alumni groups. I was participating in a work-life balance round table discussion being facilitated by the talented and knowledgable Caroline Dowd Higgins (footnote, if you aren’t familier with Caroline, I encourage you to take a look at her work. She’s an amazing career development coach and speak, author, and more!). There were folks there looking for tips on staying focused while working from home, how to manage the numerous people who approach a business looking for gratis work (often a big challenge for small business owners) and a number of other topics, especially how to take time for yourself.
Taking time for yourself and managing the gratis work led me to realize that I had a problem and I realized I needed help. I had a problem with over volunteering. I want to help everyone and I have a hard time saying “no.” This problem is compounded by another problem, the need to take responsibility for too many components of anything that I’m involved in. Yes, the inability to delegate… I was starting to resent the programs that I was volunteering for because they were taking too much of my time (whose fault is that) and there was no end in site.
Fortunately for me, one of the individuals at the table offered to be my accountability master. And, she empowered me with three key take aways:
- When asked to do something, I don’t have to answer right away.
- Since I have such a hard time saying “no,” it’s ok to say “not right now, but please ask again in the future.”
- Don’t volunteer for anything that doesn’t have an end date.
And I realized that the one thing that I was doing that was causing me the most frustration, was the one that didn’t have an end date. I’ve since put an exit plan in place and met with the leadership of the organization to implement that exit plan. It’s time to give someone else the opportunity to be the leader…