We say all the time, in the words of our friend Doug Peters at the Fayetteville Regional Chamber, “We do all the stuff people think just happens!” It’s true! As Chamber and Association professionals, we are in the “business business”, and we are out there every single day working on behalf of our communities to see that they thrive and succeed. It benefits ALL residents of our community and ALL businesses, whether they invest in our organization or not.
So, we take a job with the Chamber. We’ve been a member in the past. We’ve maybe volunteered or served on the Board. We’ve attended a few events. We like what they do. Better yet we BELIEVE in what they do. We like the idea of doing work that helps the community. This job is a wonderful opportunity to both work AND give back. We come in the first day; we are enthusiastic, and energetic. We are going to do good work!!! We can’t wait to sink our teeth in and get down to it…
Fast forward a week, a month, six months. Reality check…
THIS IS A JOB. Not only is it a JOB, it never, ever ends…we can’t simply get away from it in our private lives because everyone knows who we are. I remember distinctly a Saturday, working in the garden from early morning. I stopped, absolutely filthy, to run for more potting soil. I’m running in quickly, I’m flying down the aisle and then…I’m stopped dead in my tracks when someone calls out “Hey, aren’t you the Chamber President”?! They stop us in the supermarket; they stop us at the gas pump, at church, in our favorite restaurant. We take phone calls, texts, emails at all hours of the day and night and on the weekends. The only way we can COMPLETELY get away is to leave the country and not have digital access!!!
How do you strike a balance between doing good work and having a life? I have had this conversation with several people lately. Here is my advice to you. This is from someone who has lived the dream and allowed it to “keep them up at night”…….ME!!
- Remember it’s a job. Keep that in perspective.
- Never sacrifice your family. If you have to compromise them occasionally, make sure to communicate that to them and to make it up to them.
- Turn off your freaking phones at least for a brief time each day.
- Try to isolate short blocks of time during the day to check email and social media and then close the screens and turn OFF the pop ups!!
- Plan your next week on Friday. If you have at least done this, then when the fires come you can reprioritize because you know what needs the most attention.
- Before you take yet another meeting, analyze whether or not it can be done over the phone or can be delegated.
- Put blocks of time in your calendar that are for “stuff”. You know…that “stuff” that is piled on the front corner of the desk or in the floor by your chair. Hold yourself to it, very firmly. It’s an appointment with YOU.
- How many task forces, ad hoc committees, strategy sessions, advisory boards, etc. really, really require you? Be firm. Learn to say no when you can. Delegate to staff or senior volunteers when you can.
- Keep a handful of business cards in your possession. When someone stops you and wants to chat you up about your upcoming presentation to City Council, be strong, breathe, ask for their phone number and tell them you will call them the next day or on Monday if it’s the weekend. Tell them having a conversation with them is important, but you have an appointment and have to take off.
“Overwhelm” is real, my friends. You aren’t alone when you feel it. Don’t down play it; deal with it realistically. Turnover in this business is an issue for a reason. YOU are the only one who can set boundaries and keep them. Balance is difficult because we believe so strongly in what we do, we are typically understaffed and there just aren’t enough hours in a day. Make your expectations clear to yourself, your co-workers, your staff, your colleagues and your family. Be accountable for the REAL needs in your calendar and stop being led down a rabbit hole with the ones that can wait. Be gentle with yourself, be vigilant…and press on. What you do is just that important; but not at the cost of complete burnout.