- Jenni Catron
I was talking with a leader recently who is wrestling with exhaustion and fear of burnout. As a leader of a fast-growing nonprofit, she has been running hard for several years. The ministry has amazing momentum and yet she is desperate for a break. The demands are intense. The needs are growing and some downtime seems like the least reasonable option right now. And yet it’s exactly what she needs. Have you felt this tension too? You are giving your all to a cause you care deeply about. You probably even feel guilty at times for not getting up earlier or staying later. The need exceeds your time and somehow it seems selfish to take a timeout. I hear a version of this story all the time. I’ve been there myself. This is a difficult reality for leaders. And what makes this so difficult is that as the leader, only you can give yourself permission to pause. Rarely is someone looking out for you and your long-term sustainability. Most people are just demanding more from you. Employees need your time and attention. Clients need your engagement. Partnering organizations need time to collaborate. Your family needs your presence. Before long it feels like everyone needs something from you. If any of this feels familiar you’re likely facing a critical moment in your organization. And while pausing to regroup feels like the last thing you have time for, a strategic pause is exactly what you need. The leader that I spoke with needed permission to take two strategic pauses:
- First, she needed to take a pause for herself. To rest, breathe and recharge. She just needed someone else to affirm that it’s okay—dare I say, essential—that she take some time off.
- Second, she recognized that the organization needs to take a pause and spend some time working on the ministry rather than working in the ministry. For most young organizations, you are racing so fast that stopping to plan ahead seems like a luxury you can’t afford. But let me assure you this is exactly what you need to do. Without an effective plan and proper pacing, you and your organization could find yourself prematurely frustrated and fried.