Saturday 23 January 2016

Avoiding Volunteer-Fatigue: The Yes-Woman becomes the No-Woman

When we first moved here, I decided to try to say yes to opportunities as much I could.  I was no longer working full time and I had free time to spare.  This is very unlike me.  My natural go-to answer is no, so I think it was a stretching exercise and a great way to meet people in our new community.  However, once January hit, I was faced with the feeling that things are getting a bit too busy.  I was wishing someone would make me one of those lists that help you prioritize where to spend your free time, but instead of looking for one, I thought I'd make one for myself.  I kind of love making lists and I thought it would be more meaningful and valuable to create my own.
I know, I know.  I really need to fit some drawing lessons into my schedule.  I'm supposed to be sticking my tongue out as a sign of deep concentration while I try to figure out how to squeeze something else into the calendar.  Sideways faces are hard.  Also, why are my arms always so long?  

Keep in mind, I don't currently work outside of the home.  When I was a full-time teacher, all I did, volunteer-wise, was to occasionally help with Sunday School at our church and lead a Writer's group.  The Writer's group was really one of my favourite things to do and Sunday School was honestly the bare-minimum way to be involved in my children's education.

For this time in my life, here is my attempt at a priority list of where to spend my volunteer time while still providing enough time to go for walks, meet with friends, read, and write:

1.  Do something you love.  Make sure you have at least one way to volunteer that doesn't feel like work or volunteering.  You should always have something to look forward to.  For me right now, it is volunteering to read with some of the students in my son's class.  Helping kids learn to read and write was my favourite thing about teaching.  I've collected a good set of strategies over the years and I don't want to lose them.  Meeting with kids one-on-one is the best.  You have time to listen to their stories and still get work done.  I always found it frustrating that, even with a small class, there wasn't nearly enough time to listen to all the things kids wanted to tell me.

2.  Be part of a committee.  I have spent a lot of my time doing solitary things.  Writing is largely solitary, playing the piano was solitary, figure skating had some opportunities to work in a group, but was mainly a lone sport, in my experience.  Even teaching has a large element of independent work; although, fortunately, I learned early-on the importance of leaning on colleagues for ideas and support.  Being part of a committee has it's frustrations and even drama, but working through problems and brainstorming new ideas can be very rewarding and good for the brain.  I am the secretary for our school's P.A.C.  Sort of a sweet spot for a writer!

3.  Do something challenging.  (AKA Do something you don't entirely like).  I'm not absolutely convinced of this one and I certainly don't want to advertise that I don't enjoy any of the volunteer work I do.  However, I think there is something to be gained in sacrifice.  Even the volunteer areas you do enjoy likely have some aspect that is annoying or yucky.  Hopefully this will stretch you in a way that you can actually see the good in what you're doing. This does not mean doing something you don't agree with.  There must be merit in what you have volunteered for.  Perhaps you can help to work out the kinks to make the job a better one.  If nothing else, it may inspire some interesting writing!

That's all.  I only wanted three things.  I think I'm now ready to read someone else's list.  How do you prioritize where you spend your time?  Also, do you disagree with any part of my list?  Thanks!


  1. I've been having the opposite problem lately - I stopped doing everything and now have too much time and don't know what to do with it! But I think stepping up to volunteer some will help. I'm loving being back at Writer's Group, and have been wanting to volunteer doing foster care for animals through AARCS - but can't do that here, as our current house is too small. But they are always looking for whelping homes for kittens and puppies that have to be bottle fed. Hmmm, a committee - I have no idea what I would do for that! It'd be a challenge for me though, since I have a hard time with things like that, so I could hit two birds with one stone! I'm trying to work in time for writing, blogging, creative pursuits (photography, sketching, needlework).

    1. Don't you worry, Katie. You are working on healing which is a 24/7 job. Everyone has their own situation. This was more for me than anyone else. I think Writer's Group is like a committee anyway, plus it has had it's challenges, so you fit all three goals into one! You would be a great whelper:)