Navigating the Tug-of-War: Work Obligations vs. Self-Preservation

by | Jul 21, 2023 | Bookkeeping for Non-Profits, Boundaries At Work | 0 comments

It’s SO frustrating to set out with good intentions for your bookkeeping every month, telling yourself “THIS is the month I catch up,” only to have your attention pulled back to all the other things, which feel just as important in themselves: Programming, services, marketing, and meetings: They all feel urgent, and so the financial admin gets pushed back to the side of your desk…once again.

In fact, this happened to me this week: It’s time for me to enter data into a national database, and this was going to be the week to get that done! This is at least a semi-annual task for me, and despite setting myself and the organization up so that it takes much less time than it used to, it can feel like a drag, AND I still need to put a good chunk of time aside for this task.

I fully intended to get this done, but then all the other things that were important and urgent happened and here I am at the end of the week, pushing the task into next week.

The Type A personality in me is inclined to chastise myself for not getting this done. (Read: I continually feel compelled to get everything done NOW, and I can step into a state of over-working if I don’t keep myself in check.)

However, self-chastising and leaning too far into a feeling of defeat isn’t going to serve anyone.

I just read a beautiful passage from The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary L. McBride, PhD:

“…in a culture oriented toward consumerism, profit, and achievement, it is a form of resistance to listen, rest, and be present…Because of how much our heads are down, looking at our phones, it can even be an act of resistance to put down our devices and look up and around in the world.

Since the month I turned 40 years old, when my body decided to tell me that I was overworking and not taking care of myself by giving me a mild yet cautionary dose of shingles, I’ve been acutely aware of the balance I need to keep between taking care of myself and taking care of my commitments. Sometimes keeping this balance feels like work in itself! But I’ve come to the conclusion that taking care of my body is my first and most important job, because without my health, my ability to think clearly and deliver on my commitments declines fast and significantly.

I’m very practiced in self-reflection now, and so I have a plan for getting the database task completed next week. Obviously I have feelings about not completing this task, otherwise I wouldn’t be bringing this up, but I’m able to regulate my emotions in a way that allows me to stay in planning mode as I look forward to next week and consider what I need and what could get in the way, and pre-plan for this.

(Side note: I’m VERY good at self-deprecation and it’s taken years to get to the point of developing a good practice of self-awareness and identifying when I’m moving into that unproductive state of being.)

So what do we do when we WANT to take care of ourselves – mind, body and spirit – in order to avoid burnout, AND we want to follow through on our commitments at work, such as getting the monthly bookkeeping done on time, and done accurately? How do we manage that balance?

I have several suggestions that you can take or leave as you like.

My suggestion is to pay attention to your body’s reaction as you read each one. Do you have a strong visceral (bodily) reaction to any of these? Is it excitement? Is it fear? What emotions can you identify, and what do those emotions tell you?

  • Check in to see if your workload is realistic. Are you overpromising? Do you have the capacity to complete tasks and projects without it depleting your well-being? If so, what needs to happen that you might be avoiding? Who might be able to support you?
  • What are you doing outside of work to re-energize and rest? What does your body need that you have the ability to give it? Is your downtime from work REALLY downtime, or does work seep into other parts of your days?
  • What can you do now to set yourself up for success later? In the context of bookkeeping, this could be getting a workflow set up so that you’re filing back up documents like receipts and invoices on a regular basis to make your month-end bookkeeping session go faster and more smoothly.

The coach in me feels like this is a good starting point for your self-exploration. The questions above are prompts, and I encourage you to see where your responses lead you. Stream of consciousness journaling could lead you to some interesting insights.

I want you to know that while yes, getting the bookkeeping done right and on time is truly a top a priority in any non-profit organization, your own well-being is THE top priority, because when you’re feeling and doing well, you can think and prioritize better, and feel more confident about asking for what you and your organization needs.

So, what’s the next step you’re going to take that prioritizes YOU?

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Hey there, I´m Maggie

This is my little corner of the internet where I share all things about healthy living. I believe in sharing really simple, effective advice to help you improve your health & reach your goals. Combining my certification & experience, I want to help you develop a plan to reach your goals.



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