Why do I do this to myself?Volunteerism and Life Management
It was the end of 2013 and I had had the worst year for work. While other designers had really struggled through the recession of 2009, 2010, and beyond, I had done just fine. But in 2013, the economy was in recovery, and landscape designers were benefitting. But not me; the phone was eerily quiet. I really struggled. Then, I realized that I was doing nothing to promote myself as a designer. I had been complacent, waiting for work to come to me. I had isolated myself from my peers and limited my exposure to APLDWA’s amazing programming. I became determined to do something. I went to the year-end holiday party, excited to see my friends and catch up on all that they had been doing. And there, Leanne, the incoming president for APLDWA told a group of us that the board was looking for a volunteer to fill the Member-at-Large position. After a few minutes reflection, I found Leanne again and told her I’d do it. And that changed everything.
The volunteer core for APLDWA seems to be constantly touting the intangible, unquantifiable benefits to volunteering for APLDWA: increased exposure to peers, deeper camaraderie and friendships, etc, etc. These all are true and I appreciate them all, but they are subjective. Objectively, in dollars earned, I have completed more designs and more installations while being a volunteer for APLDWA than when I wasn’t.
- I set aside time for them all. Even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. I write emails and make work calls in the 30 minutes between dropping the boys off at school. I set everything down and go to the gym at noon Monday through Friday unless I have an appointment scheduled. I go to the boys’ baseball practices even when Ryan is there, too. It might be our only family time of the day.
- My calendar is my lifeline. End of story.
- I’m flexible with my time and myself. I often wonder why I didn’t get more completed on any given day. I then take the time to look back and see how much I actually did get done. It’s usually way more than the first impression.
- I work strange hours. (And I frequently work in PJs and unshowered.) Family dinner lasted longer than expected and I’ve got to finish a design? I’m sitting at my computer after everyone else is in bed.
- I know when I have to set something aside to complete work that needs being done. All this flexibility means the innate procrastinator in me sometimes (often) prevails. When that happens, I don’t dwell on the fact that something else isn’t getting done. I let it go.
- I’ve realized what I’m good at and what I’m not. I delegate the stuff I’m no good at. I’m no good at party planning for Emmett’s Little League team, so someone else does that.
- I apologize and refrain from blame. No one is perfect. I make mistakes all of the time. My responsibilities for APLDWA don’t always get done promptly. But that is the same for all of us volunteers. We all do what we can.