The word of the day (or maybe the week or month?!) is burnout. Not only am I experiencing it myself, but it has also been brought to my attention in multiple ways this week. The first example was a story that someone posted to a listserv: The Dark Side of Community Management. In summary, the author describes how those that manage communities experience burnout and encourages folks in these roles to find a better balance. She points out the difference between passion and obsession, which can become an unhealthy fixation.
The second example came to me as a result of the recent service trip I took with the UH2020 course. One of our students shared an anecdote, a conversation, she experienced while on the trip. She was speaking with a volunteer who works with individuals without homes. The volunteer shared an analogy with her that compared service to a dam. If one gives too much, the water source may run dry. If one takes too much, the dam may break. If one finds the right balance of give and take, the surrounding area will flourish.
I can only wonder: is someone trying to tell me something? I think so! Thanks for the reminders, Universe. I needed it.
Both of these reminders come to me during a period where I’m not striking the right balance. I’m involved in a huge project in my neighborhood. The result: I’m in survival mode. I work every night from the time I leave the library until 11:30). The dirty dishes stay in the sink far too long. Bills get skipped (not for lack of money, but for lack of time). My poor pooch doesn’t get long enough walks. While the project is rewarding and worthwhile and has already brought tremendous benefits to my neighborhood and the surrounding community, my sanity might be at stake. Chaos rules.
The worst part is – there are folks I could ask for help, and who have offered help. And I rarely take them up on it. Why? Because it’s quicker to do it myself. It takes more time to teach someone the job.
Flash back to my service trip. The agency that hosts us, Good Works, operates daily under the “ethic of inefficiency.” They value building relationships more than getting the job done. When serving, it’s important to get to know people you’re helping. It provides a sense of self-worth and dignity. I’ve written about this before (see: The Ethic of Inefficiency).
It’s about time I put this in to practice for myself. In the past two days, I have sent lists of what I need help with to a few volunteers who have agreed to help so they can choose a couple of tasks to do. I will learn to delegate more if it kills me! This burnout may have been prevented, had I learned long ago.