The story we told ourselves when we took a job in the social sector may have been, “I want to make a difference.”
Then reality sets in and day-to-day rushing to put out fires, meet with and report to the board, meeting payroll, and possibly even delivering some of your programming creates an exhausting hamster wheel of activity.
I’m sorry for your pain. It’s real.
While being executive director IS a big job (I do know the reality from personal experience) there are a few actions to take to create some sanity.
I am certain you are smart, savvy, and making a difference. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you are excellent at establishing healthy boundaries for a productive environment.
You’re ready for healthy boundary-setting if:
• You’ve felt irritated that staff leave “early” at 5 or 6 pm
• Your day is full of activity but you don’t feel as if you got anything accomplished
• You are bothered by staff asking you questions and “interrupting” your day
And we won’t even go there about board frustrations or expectations not being met, yet.
Here are a few of my own boundary-setting tactics that have changed my life from overwhelmed and always feeling a little “prickly” towards others to feeling great about my day:
1. Schedule and do NOT cancel personal time
Use this time for: exercise, reading, thinking (yes, thinking!), and time with family or friends.
2. At the start of each day (and week) list your absolute MUST DO actions
Write this list on a large or small post-it sheet or white board. Allow others to see it. Update as needed. And feel great crossing things off. Daily task rule: Includes no more than 3 “must do actions.”
3. Schedule time for staff or clients or board members to meet with you and ask their questions.
At the start of most weeks I’ve allowed up to 9 hours of available time for clients and client prospects. I allow access to that time using ScheduleOnce to minimize the back and forth emails. In reality, I often end up using some of those hours for last minute meetings or even projects that must be finished immediately. But I only use that time as a last resort.
On the days when I have to take an unscheduled meeting or call, I can because I’ve kept an hour or two available. But ONLY if I mentally check in with myself and feel like I can afford to talk right at that moment.
If, for a nanosecond, I start to feel annoyed that I’m being interrupted, I ask to schedule a meeting when I’m more mentally available.
This is an action that trains you and your team to honor your boundaries.
4. Schedule time to “work” and time for out of office meetings.
What this looks like for me: I keep Mondays and Fridays as non-meeting time as frequently as possible. This gives me time to get stuff done that simply doesn’t happen Tuesday through Thursday when I’m traveling, coaching, or meeting with others.
The secret truth to not scheduling meetings on Mondays and Fridays — it gives me the opportunity to take Friday afternoon’s to see grandchildren, take a walk, or work uninterrupted. Friday afternoons are sacred to me to do what it says on my calendar: “Lori this is your time to do whatever you want.”
5. Stop thinking you can get it all done.
Just give up that thought. There will always be more to do. When we train others to think we are superhuman we create an environment where we become resentful about the deadlines we agreed to.
6. Remember you are ENOUGH.
Take a read of this post from my archives about being enough. My niece Kaitlin is now in her senior year of high school and poised to go on to do great things, possibly in pharmacy school. Her reminder to me just might help you realize, as it did me, you’ve got this.
Be the best you can be with one-on-one coaching, just in time for fall fundraising.