A few years ago, a writer-friend gave me this adorable change purse for my birthday. It's soft and shiny, with a woman's face on it and the slogan that reads: Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again:
I laughed because she'd been nudging me to stop taking so much on. And I'd "heard" her, and half-promised to "learn to say no" to ongoing charitable projects, but the truth was, it just wasn't in my nature.
I have a busy-busy type personality, I felt I had skills to bring to the projects, and I liked knowing I was working toward a greater good in society. Whether it raising funds for the hungry, heading a committee for a gala fundraiser at my son's school, participating in a writing contest to help newer writers achieve their goals of publication...there went my hand to help.
The problem was, between my family and all those volunteer hours, I was having trouble finding enough time for my career. As many of us know, there's more to being a published author than just writing the book! And I found myself having to cut corners or say "no" to promotional opportunities because I was too busy with my off-side volunteerism.
I knew I was in over-my-head. Especially when my agent pointed it out to me. So...slow-but-surely, I started making some changes. While I found it hard to say an out-and-out "no," what I did was learn to say, "okay, but not too much."
I went from being a coordinator and frequent contest judge to an occasional judge. And I try really hard now to limit how many I'll judge. At the school fundraiser, I now volunteer for secondary role where my duties and hours are fixed. And while I still head the feed-the-hungry projects, I willingly seek and accept help from others.
Which is really working for me! I still like being associated with these projects and meeting new people and having new experiences, but I'm no longer stressing myself out. There's more time for career-related tasks--like reading my friends' books and writing this blog.
As my kids move along and my nest empties, I may ratchet up my volunteerism again. But for right now, this is feeling good.
So tell me, have you ever gotten caught up in the volunteerism cycle at work or school? Sworn you wouldn't do another thing...then accepted yet another big job? And then wished you hadn't? And how do you handle it?