Sometimes not-doing is the best thing to do

With the June 30 fiscal year-end barreling down on them like an out of control locomotive, it’s no surprise that a whole lot of nonprofit folk are exhausted. The last leg of the annual race for the gold is the most taxing, always, and weariness is to be expected. Fortunately, quieter days in July and August are just ahead, so they push on.

And for most, that’s okay.

When exhaustion edges toward burn out, however, a change of pace won’t be enough. Instead, we need to change assumptions “around how much we can really do – and develop the ability and permission to ‘not do.’”

a_choice_to_make_500_clr_14243That’s the word from business professor Steven D’Souza, along with three strategies that have helped him make peace with not-doing. These are:

  • Notice which activities genuinely replenish you and which have become merely things to get done.
  • Welcome gaps in your day, things like waiting in line or commuting, as opportunities to rest, not inconveniences.
  • Create a ‘not do’ list of behaviors you know are not helpful for you. Share your ‘not do’ list with close friends or colleagues you trust to build accountability and support.

As D’Souza counsels in a Harvard Business Review blog, “we don’t have the capacity to ‘do it all,’ just as we cannot ‘have it all,’” and we need to be okay with that. Sometimes not-doing really is the best thing to do.

After all, there’s nothing gained from depleting ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually — not for ourselves nor for the good causes we serve.

“The truth is, we are much more fragile than we think,” D’Souza writes. “We need moments of not doing – we need moments that don’t ‘count.’ It’s these moments that spur creativity and productivity when we turn back to “doing” mode.”

So to my fundraising friends and others who today are weary and burdened down, a prayer.

May you find rest. May you find joy. May you be renewed from not-doing.

For more on the importance of setting limits and self-care, see:

Rushing toward rest and relaxation

This summer, vanquish the bully within

Giving ourselves the gift of self-care

What's your take on this topic?

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