Many volunteer board leaders have noticed that no matter how much hard work they contribute, the outcome does not reflect the long hours they are putting in. Association work never stops. Especially during this pandemic. Correspondence keeps piling up and the emails are flying in. No matter how much time and effort volunteers seem to put in, they just can’t complete their ever-growing to-do list.
Many volunteer board leaders also have a career, a family, and other personal commitments. How, as a volunteer, can you make the tasks required for being a high performing association more efficient? Through my experience working with associations, I have developed ways to help leaders reach their associations’ vision and mission while not drowning in the volunteer duties, on top of their career responsibilities.
Have You Set a Deadline?
Limiting the amount of time that you give yourself to complete the task will force you to dedicate your focus. When you don’t have a deadline, it is easier to spread your time out across more tasks. Procrastination can occur when the task being too large to complete, or you have underestimated the time it will take to complete, leaving you stressed about getting it done.
When presented with tasks that have unrealistic deadlines, it is important to delegate tasks or alter the deadline if possible. Communicate with your fellow volunteers so that each team member understands the roadblocks and tasks required.
Set Email Boundaries—Turn Off That Notification
Checking your email throughout the day means you are being productive. However, it can be a distraction when your email notification pings, and you look at the inbox. Constantly checking emails as they arrive prevents us from working on the task at hand. Studies have shown that once your focus is changed to another task, such as email, it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus and get back to the original task. The blog written by The Science of Small Wins explains how distractions at work take up more time than you think.
Set a boundary between your career responsibilities and your volunteer responsibilities. Only respond to volunteering related emails while you are within that boundary. You will never be rid of all distractions, but you can turn off your email notifications and set goals while focusing on projects and setting limits to only checking email two to three times per day.
What is On the Association’s To-Do List?
Together as a board, build an effective and efficient to-do list. This will help distribute tasks among all volunteers and help to provide clarity throughout each volunteer’s day. However, building a to-don’t list is just as important. This article will help to add structure to your workday and remind you of the things you should not be wasting your time on. The types of items to put on the to-don’t list can be as simple as this:
- Don’t work at night
- Don’t work on career and volunteer tasks at the same time
- Don’t volunteer to help if you don’t have the time
- Don’t sign up for too many webinars/choose the best professional development for your association role
Prioritizing your day will help to you adhere to your association’s timelines. If you have two tasks that are equally important, start with whichever you think will take the most time and effort to complete. You won’t be able to tackle everything on your list but using the to-do and to-don’t lists will help you focus and organize accordingly.
Take a Break!
How often do you work through your breaks? The excuse is that you have to finish this task in order to break. Well, the break in the middle of a project creates a time for refocus and renewed energy. Without a break, your thoughts could become scattered and the concentration can be broken. Step away from the computer! Take a quick walk around the block or have a coffee break in another space to clear your mind. This short time away from the daunting task can decrease your stress levels and increase your overall health.
Ask for Help
It is normal to be nervous asking for help. It brings fear that the person being asked is going to reject your request. Time is valuable for you and your teammates. If you feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to ask for help. Delegate tasks to others as needed to free up time to focus on the important task at hand.
Recognize the support system around you. Your fellow board members have a lot of experience and have probably been overwhelmed with volunteer work at some point as well. Even if they cannot help you finish the task, they might have some advice that will help you get unstuck. Collaboration often breeds quicker and better results.
Don’t Be a Superhero!
Be aware of what you need to accomplish and what you don’t need to accomplish. It is perfectly acceptable that you cannot complete it all. Time runs rapidly, and we get wrapped up in the “I need to get it done” philosophy, so much that we forget to take the time to slow down and take a breath. You don’t have to define your value or your accomplishments. We are all busy. Don’t be a superhero, learn to work without overworking. It is our goal as association professionals to have a high performing association but remember: you can only benefit the association by the contributions you are able to make. Be honest with yourself and your teammates about deadlines. Spread out tasks to ensure that the work done by the association staff is at the level required to meet the vision and mission of your association.