One of our clients called me last Friday and said: “I’m tired.” I assured her that I could relate – after all, it was the end of the day and the end of a long week.
“No, I don’t mean just ‘tired,’” she continued. “I mean, I’m spent. I’m fatigued. I feel like every morning when I wake up, there’s less gas in the tank than there was the day before.”
Now, I’m no doctor, but this was a classic case of losing the balance between work and rest.
In addition to the “art of donor development,” the “art of self-care” is a vital skill for today’s fundraiser. Development is a profession (I love that word – we “profess” to be fundraisers) that requires us to often be “on” at all times of the day and night. Remember your job description and the “evenings and weekends at times” promise? In addition to our donor travel, special events and just working late, we’re also expected to be the face of our organization in our personal lives. I remember sleepily walking through a grocery store early one Sunday morning 10 years ago, baseball hat down over my eyes and wearing a sweatshirt from a competitor university than the one I worked for. Sure enough, a major donor saw me, tracked me down and wanted to talk about yesterday’s game, their next gift, etc.
Finding the time and space for self-care and organizing yourself so that you can develop a harmonious relationship between work and rest is critical. In fact, self-care should be one of the four items on your “Must List” of things to achieve every day!
I define “work” as efforts we make on behalf of others. Your day job, your volunteer responsibilities, your family obligations, etc. likely comprise most or all of your “work.” Conversely, I define “rest” as efforts we make on behalf of ourselves. They are the things we do for us. Most folks equate rest with sleep, which is certainly important, but activities such as exercise, reading and developing a new hobby or skill also count.
Think of a pendulum such as on a grandfather clock. The pendulum moves from side to side… rhythmically… smoothly… and spends the same amount of time on each side. If the different sides of the pendulum’s movement represented work and rest, we’d claim that pendulum to be in perfect harmony!
Now, imagine that same pendulum moving back and forth, but this time, it’s out of control. The pace is different and erratic, and the pendulum bangs against both sides of the clock. Out of balance! And that’s how our client felt last Friday afternoon.
Many of us work to the point of exhaustion and take pride in it, even brag about it. We also try to out-do our peers by comparing how little sleep we got vs. someone else. Eventually, the piper must be paid. There is no way a car will keep operating in top condition without regular engine maintenance and rest. That car is your organization, and that engine is you.
Our advice is to focus as intently and passionately as you can to your efforts on behalf of others (work), but to fuel the energy for them via efforts on behalf of yourself, no matter what that rest looks like. Calendar your rest, respect the time you’ve calendared, and practice self-care!