You’re working full time or own your business and you’ve decided to volunteer in one of your industry associations. What do you need to think about, to do your best at both, not burnout, and know you’ve made a difference in your contributions?
I’ve held volunteer roles in my industry since I started my company in 2004. I’ve served on educational committees to design a new downsizing for seniors class, been a chapter president, managed the Ambassadors program, been the Board Research Director, President, Immediate Past President, for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.
It’s given me back more than I can articulate here in terms of leadership and person growth experiences.
I’d like to share here the questions to ask yourself and accomplish what you set out to do. And …. this will relieve some of “balance” guilt you may feel, which I hear a lot at first in my client work.
Starting out: Doing your homework
- Know your “Why” because that will get you through the times when everything happens to hit you at once. Post it somewhere you can see it frequently or use a picture to represent it. If it is a goal, post that.
- What do you want to learn, personally, from this role? My personal growth goal was to lean in more to difficult conversations, so I challenged myself daily to either learn more or to have a conversation.
- Meet with your president, your predecessor(s) and anyone involved in your area, simply to listen and absorb. Take lots of notes because the details won’t come easily later on; you’re taking it all in right now.
- Talk to people in your organization about what they think. Invite them in to talk with you, share their opinions. Meet with them somehow so you’re never out of touch.
- As you’re holding these conversations, you’ll end up with some common categories, so a simple notebook should suffice. Categories will likely be: advice, ideas that spark something in you or others, things to follow up on sooner than later, things I don’t know yet.
- Review the goals of the past few years. Understand the history of this area. Sometimes projects done in the past can be updated, renewed or started again. We often don’t leverage all we do have. So don’t ignore the past just because it’s the past.
- Start to get a picture of where things had been, where they are now, and where people and you are saying you should head next.
- Use your Board to vet ideas. Use informal advisors you trust. Be careful of only involving people you know because there are now 4-5 generations in the workforce and so they’re here in volunteerism, too. Figure out how to access more people and perspectives.
- Spend some time looking at other organizations, outside your field, and how they handle your function. What can you learn from them? Any you’d want to meet with personally?
Organizing Your Projects
- Start big picture. Get a year-long calendar and draw the flow of projects in your area. Include new ideas. Post this on your wall to keep you on track.
- Look at your own calendar. How much work can you realistically handle. What if you had more volunteers? Are you comfortable managing people? So you’re comparing what you’d like to accomplish with the time you have available.
- Most Board work in my experience meant there was something I’d need to give up, to give myself time for this new role. Examples might be: wrapping up another volunteer role you’ve been doing for awhile, slowing down on social media for awhile or a blogging/newsletter.
- For your actual projects, break down each one of them. You’ll easily see: milestone dates, where others can volunteer for specific tasks, where you need Board input (or a vote), where you’ll need to involve others on the Board. This also makes it easier to block time in your weekly calendar for when you’ll work on these projects and ideas.
- All of this will help you begin to set up separate pc folders and email folders for the kind of work you’ll be doing, now you’re at the point of knowing pretty much what that it. If you set up volunteer folders, you can also bypass the inbox, and work on volunteer work when you are ready to, versus mixing up volunteer and work during the day. It’s a personal preference though.
Organizing Your Time
- Consider your time boundaries. For example, I was willing to meet and work in the early mornings, but rarely at night (I’m not as sharp at the end of a day and didn’t want to short shrift the volunteer work, so that was the reason for the boundary.) I answered emails any day unless I was away for a weekend and needed to relax. Others might have done all their volunteer work at night after their workday. Or mostly on weekends. Two keys: Figure out yours and communicate them with your team. If not communicated, they can’t possibly respect them, right?
- I like to track my time for a new role, because I have a difficult time sensing how much time I’m putting in (usually way more than I think). So I set up an excel sheet and populate it for a week or two to get my sense.
- If your role has project plans, best practices – anything chronological – use that great experience. Copy it right into whatever you use as your to do list and sort it based on when you need to begin work on that task. The first year I used my Best Practices, I didn’t realize they were the “result” dates, not the “start” dates. I caught on quickly though! My miss.
- Time: My best option was to block a couple of 2 hour chunks of time in my calendar, so they were protected. Each week, I’d figure out what needed to be done and also if I needed all that time or less.
- Emails: I split up emails into “answer now because they are quick” and “leave for later today because they need some thought.” The latter ones went right into my to do list (I use Trello, so can email them right into my to do list.)
- As you set up your time management system, because you’ve already drafted your annual picture, figure out how to reflect “upcoming” projects, so you have them on your radar early. My approach was a Trello Board called “Upcoming Projects, ” and it was divided by month. So if I knew I didn’t need to start something until months from now, it went into that month, and that was my placeholder and reminder, months from now.
And then of course, you have to work and practice with these systems and ideas to fine tune them.
So I’ll leave you with this and wish you good luck! Unless …. If you’d like consulting or coaching, you know where to find me.