Time. No matter what we do, we only get 24 hours per day.
Most of us recognize it for the resource that it is and we work to manage our time the best we can. Many books have been written on the subject, and I would be willing to bet that every person reading this has tried various time management principles.
I consider myself pretty efficient. I strive to be organized and at this stage in my life, I stay on top of an impressive amount of information, schedules and general to-dos.
With four kids, all still at home and in school and activities, the pull to volunteer our time can be enormous. There is a constant need for president of this booster club or coordinator of that event or coach of this activity. Not to mention Sunday school, classroom help, field trips and the like. Add in things I want to do, such as church leadership or professional events and – wow it is tough not to get overwhelmed. Clearly, no one can do it all.
Because I or my kids are involved in these activities, I do feel a responsibility to participate as a volunteer. Sometimes that gets to be too much, as happened to me this summer. This tends to happen in cycles, and when it does, it is a good idea for me to go back over my principles of volunteering.
It is all good – but I cannot do it all. Let’s face it – at this stage in my life, everything I get asked to do is for a good cause. It is not easy to cut things when there is nothing frivolous to cut. Reminding myself that it is all good, but I simply cannot do it all helps me work past the guilt of saying no.
Remember the 80/20 rule. Several years ago, I heard someone speak about time and volunteering. She pointed out that people usually have one thing that takes up 80% of their volunteer efforts and the rest takes up the remaining 20%. Maybe Scouts is your 80%, maybe church is or the PTO. It helps me to remind myself that when a task is not my 80%, that I therefore cannot dedicate the same time to it. But, it will be someone else’s 80% and they cannot do it all alone, so I will help out with my 20% time.
Lots of Little Things. This is sort of the antithesis of the 80/20 rule, but sometimes it works better to sign up for specific shifts of time (like selling concessions at an event), rather than sign up to be the coordinator of the event. When I just had a baby or when I am in particularly busy season (travel for work, sick parent), it is easier to sign up for one set time at a time and not have the responsibility of managing things. That feels less overwhelming for me.
Spending Time on Me is Important, too. I often fall into the trap of putting off all time for myself when I feel overwhelmed with other commitments. I find that I can only do this for so long before I hit the wall and become worthless on every front. It is not sustainable to not take some time for myself, even if it is just a little time to read my favorite magazine or watch a movie or cook something I enjoy. While I do still fall into this trap from time to time, I have learned how long I can go without this sort of time (about 2 weeks before I really start to lose it) and I truly really benefit when I find some of this sort of time each day. I think I am more useful to everyone (and save myself some stress) when I make time for myself from the start, rather than risk hitting the wall.
Just like making a budget and sticking to it, being thoughtful and planning out my resource of time can be difficult, but in the end it is worth it.