In the mid-90s, when I was still doing my undergraduate work, my Research class professor told us “at any given time, you have three resources available to you: time, money, or energy. When you are working on a project, you have to figure out what you have the most of and use it to your advantage.”
Those words have stuck with me all these years and I still try to live by them. Some days it’s not all that easy, especially as of late. I have days that I begin with the best of intentions and my goals for the day all planned out. A barrage of emails and phone calls later, my day has derailed, I haven’t gotten to half the things I planned and I’m feeling like a exhausted failure. Raise your cyberhand if you know what I’m talking about.
I know everyone’s tired of hearing about the “economic downturn,” but it’s a reality and the effects in our sector are starting to become more apparent by the day. Eliminate the “money” piece of the equation above. That leaves us time and energy.
Time? Who’s got that to spare right now? We’re laying off workers, taking on new projects like crazy, and more people need our help than ever before. Eliminate “time” from the equation as well.
That leaves us energy. If energy is our resource, we have to be careful to protect it. I’m talking about prevention of employee burnout here. Nonprofit leaders, busy as they are, must take a moment to evaluate their staff and consider who’s a potential candidate for burnout (including themselves!). Employees must equally take the responsibility for themselves and take action against burnout. Once it’s happened, it’s too late. Burnout is like the metaphorical snowball rolling downhill – it gets bigger the longer it goes.
To that end, in hopes of helping all of us who are struggling to be idealists in this particular time and place in history, here are some resources about burnout that includes symptoms, factors, and tips for prevention: