A friend recently asked me if I am a results or a process person. I told her that I’m a momentum person. I like to move. I don’t like breaks. But when we hit the one-year mark of Virtual Coffee, and I realized that I hadn’t had a week off in a year I didn’t want to take time off, but I thought I probably should. And it was the right call.
Part of the problem of being momentum-driven is that you go with the flow and the things that excite you. And when you have a community of a couple hundred people, there are a lot of cool ideas. And I’ve been full force on the Virtual Coffee train for a while.
Taking time off created time for me to revisit some of the things I love doing. I coded more. I worked on my postpartum wellness app. I spent less time on my phone. I spent time thinking about what I want and where I want to be. I created a new system for tasks and projects for myself (its colored post-it notes that I stick on my wall, but it’s been great for brainstorming and prioritizing).
I got to do a personal training session for the first time in a very long time. I worked on three different kinds of box jumps because when you’re as short as I am, you’ve gotta make up for that somewhere.
I had fun. I had energizing conversations. I laughed.
On Tuesday at 9:00am EDT–when I usually host Virtual Coffee–I worked with my favorite career coach, who helped me to break down tasks, prioritize, and think strategically and practically.
Just finished meeting with the amazing @katiecmckenna and it’s always a great use of my time. She asks the hard questions, says the things that are hard to hear, and helps me to believe in myself. (Also, she’s hilarious, kind, and a great author.) https://t.co/TfQDUVAggz
She made me break down the hours I spend on work and Virtual Coffee, and helped me realize some hard truths about some bad habits I was forming. She helped me find action items and made plans to hold me accountable. (If she asks, yes I am working on them!)
I looked at how I’ve been doing things from an objective level, from the perspective of “what advice would you give someone else who told you this is what they’ve been doing?”
I learned that burnout happens in different ways and with different feelings.
I learned about the importance of boundaries and clearly setting them up. Because I’ve continually said that I have boundaries, but they’re easy to blur when you don’t have a clear guide to stop.
I learned that I probably wasn’t doing a good job of providing an example for the Virtual Coffee members.
I learned that I need to believe in myself, to acknowledge my strengths rather than devaluing them, and to recognize that what I’m doing–both as a developer and a community builder–is good and worthwhile work.
I thought I would be anxious the whole week. It was like leaving my kids for a weekend with my parents for the first time. I was sad the first day, but then I inhaled deeply and felt renewed and refreshed and ready to jump back in after the break was over.
I needed it without knowing that I needed it. As an introvert, I’ve not done a great job of recognizing how impacted I’ve been by constantly being engaged. I’ve somehow developed the ability to get through the week, and then I hit the weekend and feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I didn’t feel that this weekend.
And one of my “action items” from this break is to take a week off every quarter. Because I know it’s good for me, and it’s good for the community too.
Creating space between myself and the community also allowed me to not be caught up in all the day-to-day organizing and responding and allowed me to see things from a new perspective.
I could walk through things without having to do the things. And I could much better identify where the chaos happens, where processes can be improved, where things are working well, where the community has really done a great job of innovating and responding to the groups' needs.
I’m three days into my first week back at Virtual Coffee, and I’m proud of myself for working on ways to set boundaries, to not let myself fall back into old habits.
I’m really happy to see my friends. And that’s part of what makes this so hard. This community, these people, they’re my people. They’re the people I enjoy being around. They’re the people I want to share my wins and losses with. And maybe that’s how all community creators feel, or maybe that’s what happens when you accidentally start a community. I don’t know.
But I do know that providing the best support for the community means that I’ll need to take more time off and that I need to prioritize creating clearer paths of communication and support. And it probably means that I need to tell myself that I can do this. Even though I’m afraid that I’m not the best person to be doing this, I can do it, and I can learn, and I can grow into the person I want to while doing this, with the support of the community.