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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Just one more volunteer opportunity....

Volunteering SVG
I have a hard time saying no.  Which, with that confession, is not an invitation for you all to ask me to do more, ok?  It is the truth though, I love to help people out.  Many times it is to the detriment of myself and aspects of my life.  However, we all know that without volunteer work genealogy would not be where it is today. It is one of those slippery slopes we have to work with.

The key is to find balance.  It took me years, I mean years, to understand my limits and abilities to the point where I could juggle many of my commitments without killing myself.  Why should we say no to a cause that we think would be great to be part of?  Or maybe you have thought if I don’t do it this time will the [insert project here] still go on as well?  I am sure there are many of you out there who can share these thoughts and feelings.

Honestly, if I am not busy I do not feel like I am accomplishing anything.  The busier I am that happier I am.  No matter how much I complain.  In the past I went looking for more and more things I could do to help out people and groups I was involved with.  It gave me purpose and made me feel like I was really a part of something.  Many times something bigger than myself.  Like I was working for a greater good.  Sounding even more familiar?

Then I crashed and burned.  I was doing so much for these organizations that I became the fall back person.  “Oh don’t worry, Shannon will do it.  She always says yes and can darn near do anything!”  I began to dread showing up to activities.  There was an increasing pressure on me to take on more and more.  At times a guilty knot would form in my stomach because I knew I was not going to complete something to my best abilities.  Then I would get angry with myself for not giving it my best.  It was a vicious never ending cycle. 

If you have ever had similar thoughts to mine, or maybe are still having issues with taking on too much, think through these 5 points listed below.  This is how I started to get my “free” time (not to be confused with family or “paid” time) under control.  Now, the under control part I think my husband would laugh about, but you and I know what I mean.  Right?!

1.       Keep track of your hours.
This is a great tool for time management and organization, but is also a great tool to see where all of our time goes.  For one week keep a log of everything you do and how long it takes you to do.  Every meeting you attend, projects you work on, family obligations, clubs, and etc.  Then look at it and analyze what you are doing.

Are there patterns, free spaces, ways you waste time?  I am sure it will be an eye opening exercise.  What you are looking for in particular this time around is if you can realistically take on one more volunteer job.  Do you have the time to dedicate 5-10 hours a week as an officer in a society?  Can you spend 20-30 hours preparing a FREE presentation for a group? 

2.       What are you REALLY passionate about?
While you may be a very productive and skilled member of your community do you ever get roped into doing things you really do not want to do?  I know I did for many groups I belonged to.  What I discovered was the groups or tasks I was most passionate about or most interested in had my full attention.  I would go over and beyond on those and sometimes put the others off until the last minute.  If you find yourself doing this take note.  You might be a lot happier, and less stressed, if you cut back on the things you volunteer to do that do not leave you with that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

3.       Be on the lookout for new talent.
If you are the only one who can do something in your group (or at least that is what they think) it may be time for you to look for someone else to train.  No one, ever, should be the only person who can do a task.  If that is the case the group has bigger problems.  However, if after 4 years you really need a break from being the advertising person for your group start looking around for other people to teach.  Find those who have the skill set needed and you can work with to train.  Then you will not be the only person who can do it, you will have a little budding army of volunteers who can all participate. 

4.        Learn to say no, and mean it.
Once you get a handle on what you can and cannot do start practicing the art of saying no.  Trust me it is an art, and something you may not master right away.  I started out by telling people I would love to help with whatever but do to a prior commitment my free time was booked.  Or even that I would not do a good job at it because of [insert reason] and it would not be fair to the organization.  Most people will appreciate your honesty.  They will love you even more if you can point to someone else who you think would be great. 

5.       Learn to ask questions and think about your answer.
You never have to say yes or no right away.  Maybe you need to check your schedule, compare notes with your partner, or heck meditate on the outcome.  If you are tempted to take on a task ask questions about it.  Particularly about what it involves and the estimated time commitments are.  Then make sure you know when they need an answer.  I am always suspicious of groups who want an answer right then.  People can give you an hour or two, trust me.  Besides an all-out crisis there are few reasons for you to give an immediate answer on a volunteer question.  

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