Resources for dealing with volunteer burnout

Organizing a PyLadies group is hard work, and often under-appreciated. Here are some ways to recognize the signs of burnout, and ways to prevent, deal with, or otherwise alleviate it.

Causes of Burnout

  • Your group may be growing faster than anticipated.
  • Your passion for the community comes with an inability to say no when asked to do things.
  • It’s exhausting to be “on” for so long – from the preparation leading up to an event, to organizing and interacting with all the people who come to the event, to following up with folks afterward.

Signs of burnout

  • You begin dropping the ball here and there because you’ve overcommitted to things.
  • You begin to dread planning or attending events.
  • Relationships between organizers deteriorate.
  • Your initial feeling of goodwill toward attendees begins to sour.

Ways to prevent burnout

Running your Group

  • Find co-organizers to help shoulder the burden. We all have different skills, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Ask participants to be mentors to beginners. Even beginners can step up to deal with non-technical aspects of an event. This can also make things more fun, and helps build community.
  • If people demand even more of you than what they’re getting, politely remind them that we don’t get paid for this, and that organizers lead very busy lives. Suggest that person step up and organize something themselves.
  • Scale back your involvement to a level you find sustainable over the long term.
  • Take a break altogether.

Taking a break

It’s completely okay to stop your involvement for a time. Everyone would prefer that you take a breather if it meant you could come back refreshed and ready to pick things up again.

Events

  • Have variety! Try different speakers, different topics, difference venues. Intersperse large events with simpler, informal ones. Lightning talks help break things up.
  • Work with other groups in your community, ask them to lend a hand with things from time to time.

Coping with burnout

If you notice someone seems to be burning out

  • Meet with them, outside of an official event, in a relaxed environment. Learn how they are feeling, work with them to determine how to deal with it if they are burning out.
  • Let them take a breather and leave them the option to leave permanently without guilt.

If you are feeling burnt out

  • Know that you are not alone. This stuff is hard, and it’s hard to do for a long time.
  • It’s ok to ask people to step up and help more.
  • Reach out to other PyLadies group organizers.
  • Again: It’s ok to take a break.

Why are you here?

  • Think about your personal goals and how your work is helpign you achieve them. Also think about how your goals might be better achieved if, in the long term, you maanged to avoid burning out.
  • It’s really rewarding to help women both learn Python and find their place in the larger community, but it’s really hard work.
  • There’s more support in your group than you might guess. People will want to help you out if they can.

Summary

  • Self care is important, perhaps most important.

    In particular, in times of stress, illness, or sleep-deprivation, remember to take the time to show compassion and care for yourself.

  • People are human.

    We all get sick, overwhelmed, forgetful, and make mistakes at times. Try to remember and embrace these as the “oh, goodness” moments of volunteering.

  • “Hello, Murphy. Welcome.”

    Murphy’s Law (Source: Wikipedia. an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.) pops up in the most unexpected times and places. Accept Murphy works in mysterious, unpredictable ways. A sense of humor, humility, and resourcefulness are crucial to effective community organizing.

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