Over-Volunteerism and how to avoid burnout


Small Biz Matters – a half hour program each week where you can work ON your business rather than IN it.
Small Business Bookkeeping Tips
with Alexi Boyd from Boyd Office Management Services
Date: 5 April 2016

My mother always said if you want something done…

… ask a busy person. Watching Mum; so efficient, so practical, so organized I couldn’t wait to take on the whole world just like her. That’s precisely how I can sum up one of the busiest months of my life; I took it all on, kit and caboodle. My business, my family and the volunteer work: If something needed doing I offered and I delivered. Problem was, for the first time I really felt the affect of taking on too much. I didn’t plan ahead, I didn’t see the avalanche coming and how work, “doing my bit” and real life could so devastatingly all come crashing together. I risked valuable client relationships, I cancelled appointments losing tangible dollars and turned into a dragon at home all while prioritizing the wrong things and losing sight of what was important.

I blamed the school Autumn Fair entirely when whingeing on social media but the truth is the only thing I should only have blamed myself. No one forced me to do work for free at the perfectionist level and if I hadn’t someone would likely have put their hand up. I have to admit that I believed it wouldn’t have been done properly without me and that poisonous headspace programmed me to run my business, my volunteer work and normal life at 200%. Guess what? That’s just not possible and I hit total overwhelm.

So I thought I’d help my readers learn from my mistakes this month with Top Tips on Saying Maybe. Notice I didn’t use the word “No” (I believe everyone can pitch in for just 4 hours a month, have fun and meet great people) but we need to be aware of that state of meltdown.

Before you say yes ensure the organisation tells you how many hours this task will take, and then add 30% to that figure and if you have that many hours spare, go for it. Also, avoid unreasonable time frames.

With this info tackle it like any other work project: implement a time management strategy. Allocate the task specific time slots that don’t impact on anyone else but you including your family. Divide up the total time over the weeks you have and again, check you have the weekly time to devote.

If the task has been done before get a proper handover from that person and make sure there’s someone to turn to when you need help. Along the way don’t fall into the trap of taking on even more. Email lists, Ghannt charts, 

If for some reason you need to switch to other commitments like work use your out of office reply stating you’ll get back to them after a specific date. I did this for 5 days on the Fair related emails and it meant I avoided missing work deadlines. Without it I would have lost clients.

Same as saying no to clients when they ask for too much – example from NSBMs demanding clients.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. Remember you are not Superman (or, in my case my Mum) and you’re doing the best you can at the time and in the circumstances right now. Eat well, sleep well and try to look after yourself, if you’re going to work longer hours (and volunteering IS work) you need to make sure you don’t get sick.

So Mum IS right: Yes, if you need something done ask a busy person; but we all need to be careful not break them. Take care my kind-hearted friends.

(Photo courtesy of Procsilas Moscas)