Volunteering is the most gratifying work there is, but over time, it can wear you out. Burnout is real, even when you do something you love. Prevent burnout as a volunteer, and you will be able to do more good in the long-term.

Preventing Volunteer BurnoutPhoto by geralt

It’s OK to Stop, Rest and Refuel.

When we get caught up in a volunteer project, it’s easy to ignore the need to rest. We fear that we might lose momentum, miss something important, or fail to meet a deadline. However, failing to serve our own needs makes it much harder to serve the needs of others.

Failing to serve our own needs makes it much harder to serve the needs of others. Click To Tweet

Take some extra time for yourself this week. Turn off your phone for a while and “tune out” for an afternoon. Let the weight of the problems you’re trying to solve by volunteering fall away for a while. You’ll often find that walking away will help you become more productive and better at solving problems when you go back to them.

Set Boundaries

We volunteer as a part of our “free time” from work or school, and that makes setting boundaries between volunteering for others and taking time for ourselves difficult. On the one hand, we volunteer on our own time; on the other hand, we feel obligated to fulfill a need. Sometimes it’s hard to say “no,” but setting firm boundaries between work, volunteering and personal time is important to prevent burnout.

Are you headed for burnout? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you work or volunteer more hours than planned this week?
  • Have you had to cancel plans for something fun in order to work or volunteer?
  • Is your to-do list so long that you never have time to cross off “non-urgent” items?
  • Are you getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night?

When the volunteer work you do makes your community a better place, it’s easy to feel obligated to take extra time on your days off to help. But by setting boundaries and making time for yourself, you’ll not only enjoy volunteering more, you’ll also be more productive.