When overcommitting to others undermines your own health
By Vanessa Wells
She is always put together. She comes over to your house and her earrings match her dress. When you are going through a rough time, you know you can expect a card from her or a home-cooked meal. She’s the first to volunteer when someone is planning a wedding or a baby shower. Her Christmas cards are always hand-crafted with thought and care. They arrive early just as you are trimming the tree. She’s on every board, committee and people call her when they are in a bind and need something done now. We all have, “Can I? Will you?” days, but she has a “Can I? Will you?” life, always making sure she gives her all to others.
Either you know this woman or you are this woman. While giving to others is a necessary component of a fulfilled life, spending too much time caring for others leaves little left for the self. Here’s a twelve step program to help keep your charitable endeavors in check.
Step One: Fall in love. Think of volunteer work the way you think of all other social endeavors. Would you go on a date with a guy you weren’t interested in? Would you have lunch with someone you didn’t like? Only invest in the causes nearest and dearest to you. Find your passion and focus your energy there.
Step Two: Pay yourself. Whatever you give, whether it’s time, money or resources, track it. Being aware of how much you are already investing will help you determine when it’s okay to take on one more project and when it is time to back off.
Step Three: Ask for help. The “It’s easier to just do it myself,” mentality gets many do-gooders into trouble. Know your skills and provide those. If the nonprofit needs an accountant and crunching numbers isn’t your thing, leave it for the next gal.
Step Four: Share the wealth. Let’s face it. Even though there is no cash on the table, many times we volunteer for selfish reasons. We love the glory of saving the day. Sharing the spotlight also means sharing the responsibility. You don’t have to be wonder woman to make a huge impact.
Step Five: Carpe diem. Be Walt. Seize the day. Look for every opportunity, leverage every relationship, assess from every angle. Make sure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Step Six: Kick the tires. Too often, nonprofits try to reinvent the wheel. Instead of starting from square one, implement a plan and vision that’s already been proven. Get ideas from similar nonprofits in other cities; adapt a process that’s worked for another project in the past.
Step Seven: Watch the clock. Time is money even in the nonprofit world. Don’t waste it.
Step Eight: Cancel meetings. Can objectives be communicated via email or through a quick conference call? If so, scale back on meetings or cancel them altogether.
Step Nine: Just say no. Lots of passion plus lots of people equal lots of ideas. Sometimes the best idea is determining which ideas to trash or shelve for later.
Step Ten: Think yourself out of a job. Remember the point of your efforts. Are you raising money for a particular cause? While you may be having a blast working your heart out, finding easier, more efficient ways to achieve the same goal is always a good idea. Sure, your annual bake sale is a lot of fun, but finding a corporation to donate the same amount of money to the cause instead of showcasing your sweet treats each year can ultimately help your organization even more while giving you the opportunity to concentrate your efforts elsewhere.
Step Eleven: Meet a deadline. Give yourself a deadline and meet that deadline. What’s the end game? Set your sights there. Focusing on a goal gives you the motivation to get the job done as fast as possible.
Step Twelve: Celebrate the success. Once you’ve given your all, make sure to slow down long enough to enjoy it. Honoring all that hard work is your paycheck for a job well done.