If you’re an association professional, you probably…
- Work practically 24/7
- Wear many, MANY hats
- Struggle to get things done – and get them done RIGHT
- Always feel like you can (and should) be doing real.
Yup, burnout is REAL, especially in the nonprofit space. So how can you overcome it, so that you don’t resent your job?
What is burnout?
Burnout is defined by an extended state excessive stress that leads to physical, mental and physical exhaustion. The source of this stress can be personal, professional, mental, emotional or any other kind. In simple terms, burnout is the bodies response to that constant feeling of needing to be “on” with a million things going on all of the time.
Common symptoms of burn out inclucde:
- Lack of sleep and general fatigue
- Feeling a lack of creativity or purpose
- Difficulty focusing at work and feeling engaged in your work
- Increased irritability
- Emotional “numbness”
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or many of them at the same time, the most important thing to know is that you are definitely not alone. This feeling of burnout is at an all-time-high in America, with upwards of 50% of people reporting that they experience burnout since 2019.
The pandemic, inflation and major world events have compacted us emotionally. Burnout is the result.
Burnout and association professionals
As an association professional, you care. You’re constantly thinking about your members and are connected to their challenges, as well as your own. So this pressure is kind of two fold.
Do not feel bad if you are experiencing burnout. While it’s not a quick fix, there are some steps you can take to help fight this feeling. These are our top 5 tips to help battle burnout.
You probably spend all of your time (free time included) thinking about what needs to get done – the emails you need to send, the newsletter you need to draft, the event you need to plan, etc. But that will wear on you so fast, you’ll wonder how you can ever keep going.
That’s just it: You HAVE to stop. You have to disconnect from time to time, especially digitally. After a certain time (say 5 p.m.), vow to stop checking your email. Stop checking social media as well. In fact, if you can, turn off your cell phone altogether.
This will be a hard adjustment at first, but it’s necessary to be more “in the moment,” which will leave you feeling more refreshed the following day.
2. Schedule downtime
We get it – if you don’t schedule it, you don’t get to it. And it’s not your fault. Things always come up! But that’s why it’s crucial to actually schedule a little downtime. Even if it’s just for an hour or two in the evenings, block off some time and make it a time to be all about YOU.
Spend this time doing whatever you’d like – reading, watching TV, spending time with your family, planning that dream vacation on Pinterest – just make sure it has nothing to do with work. Your brain NEEDS this downtime. And it will help you approach projects (and problems) with a clear mind in the morning.
Note: This should be guilt-free downtime. Just remember, everything you touch tomorrow – projects, meetings, etc. – will be better from your downtime today.
Another tip for time scheduling is to allow yourself to book work time with no meetings to get your work to-do list done. Being remote and virtual, it’s easy to lose your entire work day to meetings which can compact stress because you can’t get what you need to do done. Blocking off “focus time” in your calendar can help with that.
3. Don’t bring work into fun, but do bring fun into work
It’s so easy to bring work into your personal life – when you’re walking, watching TV, driving to work or to the store, etc. And that’s how you get so mentally exhausted. You literally have zero downtime (see point #2).
That said, scratch those habits, and instead of bringing work into fun (ahem…conference calls in the car), try bringing fun into work. Here’s an example, let’s say you and a coworker need to brainstorm ideas for your next meeting or event. Well, is that something you could do while taking a short walk outside? Not only is this good for your mental and physical health, but it could actually help spur some creativity. (Two birds with one stone, folks!)
4. Be realistic about what can and cannot get done
Here’s the thing: You’re only human, and you can only do one or two things *well* at once. You have to remember that – and accept it.
Instead of beating yourself up for all the things you can’t get done in a day, re-adjust your expectations. Identify the tasks that absolutely HAVE to get done – then focus your time and energy there. If you have extra time, you can then focus on some of those other projects. But otherwise, know that you accomplished what you set out to do – and be happy with that!
5. Remember your “why”
At the end of the day, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, always just think back to your why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your association’s mission? You may be bogged down with tedious (and seemingly never-ending tasks), but focus on the big picture. You’re contributing to a much larger cause – always keep that in the back of your mind.
If you’re doing all of the above and you’re STILL feeling burned out, be patient and kind with yourself. Burnout is not a quick fix. It might be time to reach out for help to really help tackle this problem. We encourage anyone struggling to speak to a friend, loved one, doctor or mental health professional. You are not alone and there are many resources to help you feel good again.