Avoid employee burnout by teaching your staff to say no

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Often people mistakenly think that working in the not-for-profit sector is a great way to get work/life balance. While it’s true that ethical work can be more fulfilling than other sectors, the unique challenges that not-for-profits face can put many staff on a one-way track to burn out! 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In this week’s guest post from Chantelle Baxter co-founder of charity One Girl, an organisation that specialises in improving education for girls in Africa, she shares how she is learning to say ‘no’ to avoid burnout.

We think this post is a great starting point to open up a conversation with staff about their workloads and, who knows, you may even learn how to say no to a few things yourself!

It’s Monday morning, and I’ve arrived early at the office. I’m already dreading the week ahead.

At the moment we’ve got the next launch of Do It In A Dress fast approaching, our Cocktail Gala in 3 weeks, the training of 100 Ambassadors across Australia in the next 10 weeks plus I’m planning on delivering 100 talks in 100 days.

Our team is growing at a rate of knots, we’re launching new projects internally, building a new fundraising system, upgrading the One Girl website AND looking for new ways to love up our amazing donors and supporters. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Needless to say, the panic has well and truly set in. My sleep patterns are going crazy, my shoulders feel like rocks and my burnout meter is starting to hit peak point.

I’m feeling scattered and unfocused. Change is needed.

We’ve fallen into the trap with trying to do too much with too little. And no doubt it’s a trap that many other charities and start-ups fall into. We’ve spread ourselves too thin. Burn out is approaching.

I’m an ‘anything is possible’ kind of girl. I believe that no matter who you are, what level of education you’ve had, what you’ve done up until this point is irrelevant – you have the ability to make magic happen, do extraordinary things and make a massive difference in the world.

This is awesome. But one must be careful with this belief, grasshopper – it can lead to overcommitting, and taking on EVERYTHING just because it seems like a great opportunity or because someone else wants you to do it. There’s a great David Allen quote that says this perfectly:

“You can do anything, but not everything”

And when we try and do too much, we end up doing nothing well.

After a conversation with one of my mentors late last week, he told me to: Stop. Focus. Pick three things. Do them well.

So I’m starting this week with a cull. I’m reviewing what’s on my to-do list and picking the three things that are most important. What is going to get us closer to our vision of reaching 1 million girls by 2020? Do that.

When you’re trying to birth a project or breathe life into a vision, you need to be a pit bull with your time. That means saying no to hundreds of requests and opportunities, so you can say yes to the ones that are most important to you.

For us that’s educating 1 million girls by 2020. We say yes to that. But we must strategically say NO to a number of things to get there.

This week I’m planning on smashing my to-do list with a giant NO stick.

So how will I choose what gets smashed and what doesn’t? As a general rule: If it doesn’t inspire you, get rid of it. Don’t do something just because you feel you ‘have’ to.

Does this mean I’m going to love every task that has been allocated to me? No. But behind each task is a vision or an outcome. If that vision or outcome doesn’t inspire me – it needs to go.

So here are the items I’m planning on smacking with my NO stick this week:

Do It In A Dress Launch Party

We did this last year. It was okay. Not great, nor overly inspiring, but we did it. Mostly because we felt like we had to.

Whoops, sorry – here comes my giant NO stick. Goodbye Launch Party! I’m putting my energy elsewhere.

International Day of the Girl

We ran two events for this last year. Again, it was okay. One event was great, the other mediocre. We did them because we felt we had too.

NO STICK. BAM! You’re gone.

And instantly I feel lighter. More energy. Less panic. Less worry. More focus, more intention.

So, now I have a question for you. What can you say NO to in your life? What are you doing that doesn’t inspire you? What will YOU smash with the No Stick this week?

 

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