Work-Life Balance — lessons learned

December 8, 2017

In all of the jobs that I have had, I always keep track of my hours (for my own sake), clocking in and clocking out. It is of interest to me to see what kind of hours I put in (on average). When I was first starting out in the professional fundraising world, I had the assumption that my clients “bought me” while they were paying me — essentially I would be at their beck and call. Maybe it was my naivety, or maybe it was my eagerness to please. In any event, it wound up being all-consuming. (And, truth be told, if I were to calculate my hourly rate for being on call, etc., I would be lucky to scrape by with a livable wage.)

That was tolerable while I was a young single guy. Then came marriage and many Monday mornings, I would hop in my car and drive 150 miles to a client, stay there for the week and return home for dinner on Friday. These were the days before cell phones were commonplace, so speaking to my newlywed bride was a luxury. It didn’t make for a great way to start married life.

Fast forward many years and the position I was at was the true definition of “no boundaries”. I would work ridiculously long hours (sometimes 6 days a week) and then had donors calling me at home. I actually had a donor call me late at night once to ask where her charitable tax receipt was (I could guarantee to her that it wasn’t at my house.) I felt great about my accomplishments at this particular job — I had managed to increase donations by almost 50% (from an already well-established community). I introduced new fundraising initiatives as well as policies and procedures. I really had a sense of accomplishment. But jump forward a short few years and the donations at that organization slipped to a ‘before Jack‘ level and some of the successful fundraising initiatives that I had established have fallen by the wayside. While that is a shame, the real pity is that nobody seemed to be troubled by it. I remember when I was working there, leaving my home early Monday mornings (leaving a newborn) and not really seeing him again until the weekend (I got home each day after he was in bed and left before he was awake). What a colossal mistake I made. I will never get that time back with my son. And what was it all for? To achieve an ever-rising goal of funds raised? I remembered a great adage “You can’t want it more than they do”.

People ask me what my favorite part of my current position is. I tell them hands down it is the work/life balance. I am encouraged to work out and interact with the members and donors. I have a monthly board meeting that requires me to work later one night a month. I am home for family dinners most nights and (for the most part) if I get an email in the evening, it is just a contact getting around to checking their emails and rarely requires an immediate response.

The Millennial Generation has been described as wanting a great work/life balance. As a Gen X’er myself, I would concur and wish I would have had the fortitude to set better boundaries when I was younger. A work/life balance gives you time to prioritize, as well as look after yourself.