Volunteering is the Secret

Need to be reinvigorated? Try this secret formula          

You know the feeling. You have determination, drive, and the skills to achieve your dreams. You’ve worked long, hard hours to reach your goal and it still seems miles out of site. You’re not letting go, but it’s starting to feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.

I learned a not-so-obvious solution for this common struggle, when I began studying productivity experts. I found it hard to believe at first, but they stressed that you’ll accomplish more by doing less at a time. If you plan regular breaks, you’ll work faster than if you maintain long, stressed-out hours. Because life (and your art) is a marathon, it’s better to work ten hour days and keep moving than it is to work a single 12 hour grind that leaves you fried for the next three days. That last two hours can put you in an early grave!

I found it difficult

Taking breaks didn’t make sense to me at first. I didn’t feel like I deserved them. When you’re on the road to success, you need to be at the wheel, don’t you? …and every pit stop slows you down.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that you don’t take breaks because you “deserve” them. You take them because you must have them to continue moving.

Ultra long distance runners—those crazy people who run 50 or 100 miles (or more) at a time–break regularly for food, drinks, or to chat. They know that the body is a collection of organs that all need rest. Even the winners of these super long races will break for ten to twenty minutes at a time, even though that’s putting them further behind the clock at that particular moment.

They’ve learned that by slowing down, they actually speed up in the long run!

Almost there…just needed a tweak

So, I began taking breaks while working on a new monologue, or developing course materials for Abundance Bound. They were good for me. I’d walk in the neighborhood, visit with friends, surf online, and let my mind wander. Still, the residue of my business and art continued to seep into these times. After a few breaks, I discovered that I wasn’t really taking a full “break.” I was using the walk for creative time to think about the work I was doing! While that was helpful over the short run, I was missing out on the key component of the break that makes it successful: I wasn’t completely away.

Then I discovered how I could escape AND rejuvenate.

A friend asked me to volunteer helping a charity. The event doesn’t matter here. The fact is, I decided to “forgo” my break and join her. What did I discover?

Helping a charity was a true break.

I found so much goodness from helping out in an area of my community that had an immediate need:

1)    I was now part of a larger community working toward a goal that wasn’t mine.

2)    The need was big enough, that I didn’t have time to worry about my own problems.

3)    Watching how the charity operated gave me ideas on how to better use my skills without actually focusing on my craft or business.

4)    I networked with people that I needed to know. Guess who volunteers for charitable organizations? People you wouldn’t expect there. Powerful people with very little free time. They understand what I was just learning: volunteering is plain good business.

5)    I came back the next day incredibly refreshed and ready to attack my next project.

Want a financial bonus? If you itemize your tax deductions, you may be able to write off your participation and mileage to/from the charity (check with your tax advisor for details).

So, if you want to move faster in your art or business, lend a helping hand during your break. You’ll be surprised by how much you “get” when you take time out to give.

2013-04-19T09:00:56+00:00