I’ve seen a couple of blog posts recently which made the point that we should never let up and that now is the time to push harder than ever. Andrew Hemingway wrote about how community managers need to do the same thing all weekend that they do during the week and Chris Brogan talked about taking things up a notch during the holiday season. Now I really like both Andrew and Chris a lot so this is not in any way a knock on them – I just have a different perspective and I’ve got to say the posts kind of just annoyed me. I don’t have any problem with being competitive or working hard – I’ve never been accused of missing either of those two traits – but they annoyed me because I’m feeling pretty flat out already and I think a lot of other people are feeling that way too. As a woman, and as a woman with a few big family events going on, I also can’t responsibly spend more of my time with my head in the computer or on the phone. If I did the turkey wouldn’t get cooked, the parents wouldn’t get cared for, the presents wouldn’t get wrapped, and the guest bed wouldn’t get made. And while I probably feel this more acutely as a woman, that quest for balance and the need to take care of life outside of work is shared by many of the men I know.
From a community management perspective, the enduring real life relationships we have with family and good friends is what allows us to have passion and energy for the work that we do. Ignoring those relationships in favor of another blog post or one more conversation with one more member is just not a good prioritization of time. All relationships require maintenance and the richer the relationship, the more time it requires. Community managers need that base of solid relationships because often the community management job is fairly isolating despite all the interactions. Often community managers have few peers within their own organizations and they have a position of authority within there communities that necessitates a somewhat formal relationship with members, despite being on friendly terms with them. It’s a lot like being a parent – you are friendly with your children obviously but when a rule needs to be enforced, you are not there to be their friend, you are there to guide them to make the right choice. So as community managers, it is absolutely critical to nurture friendships and relationships outside of your work realm. That requires being disciplined enough to take a break – even if emails are piling up. The emails will be there tomorrow and if you set the expectation with your community of when you are available and when you are not, it becomes the accepted norm.
I am a big fan of turning off the switch and stepping back from the screen. Balancing for me means that I try very hard to reserve weekends for down time. There are definitely exceptions to that – deadlines and emergencies come up, but in general I try to set the expectation that I am not available for work on the weekends even though I often lurk to see if anything is going on that needs immediate attention. On the weekends I spend time with my family and friends, I get outside, I cook… and most importantly I get some distance and perspective about my work. It provides a really important reminder that we have control over how we work and the choices we make. It allows me to understand and execute better on my own priorities – both family- and work-related. And critically, it allows me to come back to the work week refreshed and energized. I believe that the time off we take is just as critical to our happiness and long-term success as is the work that we do. And yes, there will always be people who are working while I am cooking a family dinner and they may benefit from that in ways I cannot take advantage of because of my competing priorities… and that is OK with me because I prioritize differently.
The upshot – know what priorities are important to you and be disciplined enough to invest in those priorities every week. As community managers we all know the feeling of being stretched thin and overwhelmed. Take the time to recharge and come back with the energy to handle issues constructively. How do you make sure you get the time you need to recharge? It’s not easy.
And yes, the glacier in New Zealand was very, very cool!!