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Not-for-profit martyrs and avoiding the workaholic trap

Not-for-profit martyrs and avoiding the workaholic trap

My name’s Jenny Mitchell and I’m a reformed not-for-profit martyr.

Yep. I used to work tons of extra hours for clients, never bill them for it, and just say to myself “it’s ok, because I’m so committed to the cause.”

Exhausted not-for-profit Martyr working late
Like this guy.

And then I ended up in a big puddle on the floor, exhausted, and feeling unappreciated by everyone—my board, my peers, and my family.

I was a not-for-profit martyr.

And that big badge of honour—the martyr badge—became a great big chip on my shoulder that started talking to me:

  • How do they not see how hard I am working?
  • What other way can I say this so they’ll understand?
  • I hate my job and I’m starting to hate this cause, and everyone around me!

After I picked myself up from the floor, and dusted off my ego, I built these five rules to live by. They have become the backbone of my work with clients, and they have transformed my life—both personally and professionally.

The first step in this journey is to have a desire to CHANGE your behavior. You need to be ready to step off the “I am super important and my organization can’t function without me” bandwagon into a place of possibility and abundance.

Are you ready? I hope so. Because life as a reformed not-for-profit martyr is great!

Reformed not-for-profit Martyr enjoying her freedom
Life is great!

5 rules for reformed not-for-profit martyrs

  • Value your time, and others will too
    Allocate your time wisely, like a valuable commodity (it is!). Delegate activities or find ways to be more efficient (e.g. conference calls instead of in-person meetings). When you say yes to something after 5pm, you’re saying no to something else (for me, it’s my family). Block off time for your action items in your calendar. Your work matters.
  • Have a Plan
    Build something to follow so you know where you’re going. I don’t care if it’s simple (6-month timeline on the wall) or complicated (strategic plan with key metrics) but you gotta know where you’re going! A plan also allows you to say “Great idea! Let’s put it in the plan for next year” when you say no.
  • Prioritize your work
    Choose what falls off your desk. Start the day with power moves and things that are difficult. Build in your systems and processes for repetitive tasks so that they don’t eat up your day.
  • Revenue—the more you touch it, the more it comes in.
    I can’t stress this enough: when you touch your fundraising files, money and relationships come in. If you avoid fundraising, or get caught up in administrative details, the money doesn’t come in. Money drives mission. Don’t avoid it!
  • Be Compassionate.
    You are a human being. You do the best you can every day, don’t you? Stop beating yourself up for all the things you didn’t get done, and start celebrating the things that you did accomplish. A workaholic seeks validation from outside (their boss, their colleagues) while an overachiever knows their own self-worth. Which one do you want to me?

Your Turn—ready, set, go!

Reflect. Which one of these rules is the hardest for you to commit to? Why?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic. Email me at [email protected] to discuss your transition to the other side. Trust me—it’s GREAT being over here. I’d love for you to join me!