Whether you’re helping a co-worker, volunteering, or lending your best friend a hand, helping others with their projects feels pretty amazing.
That’s because when you donate to a charity, for example, the mesolimbic system of the brain — which is responsible for feelings of reward — is triggered. Your brain also releases feel-good chemicals that make you keep on performing these acts of kindness.
That’s not all. Helping others gives you perspective, sense of renewal, and creates a feeling of community. Helping someone gives you a self-esteem a boost, become more optimistic, reduce stress, and strengthen your friendships.
It’s a win-win.
Unfortunately, if you help others too much and you are not retaining a work/life balance, then you’re putting your own productivity at risk. After all, how can you complete of your todos and tasks when you’re busy helping everyone else out?
Here are seven ways that you can balance helping others while still managing to get all of your stuff done.
1. Set boundaries.
Warren Buffett has famously said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
I get what he’s saying. Obviously it must be quite accurate as good ole Buffett is one of the most successful and wealthiest people in the world. But, I think sometimes people take this quote out of context.
What I believe Buffett was saying that you should say “no” to things that are meaningless, and aren’t productive. For example, if your friend asks you to pick-up a case of beer and watch the baseball game. So great! Do it, you need breaks.
But, if you have a deadline to meet, then you will want to choose the wiser choice — which is to say “no.” If you’ve met that deadline ahead of schedule, then by all means go ahead and enjoy yourself.
If that same friend asked if you would be interested in attending a workshop or volunteering, then you may want to consider putting your work aside — depending upon deadlines that you need to have at the ready in your mind. Those are great ways to learn new skills and network — both of which can help you become more successful.
In other words, you have to set boundaries.
If you’re swamped — politely say “no.” If you’re asked to do something that doesn’t help you or the person you’re helping achieve their goals, then say “no.”
When someone asks for your help, be upfront and honest. If you can assist them because you have the time and it will be beneficial for you both — then go ahead and help them out.
2. Take a minute and figure out the ways you can help.
There’s a misconception that helping others eats into too much of your day. Sure. Helping a friend move into a new house or volunteering for a fundraiser are time-consuming, you don’t always have to spend hours helping someone out.
For example, if just came across an inspiring article, podcast, or book that can help your team, then go ahead and share those resources with them. It will only take you a minute to circulate that information via email or Slack channel.
Whenever you’re asked for help, take a minute and reflect on what’s an effective way to do so. You may come up with some ideas that don’t block your productivity, such as;
- Just listen and be empathetic to someone when they have a problem. This could be done over a five-minute phone call or during lunch.
- Introduce them to someone else who is qualified to help them out. For instance, if your sibling asks you to build them a website for a business, but you only know the basics, then hook them help with a developer that you know or have worked with.
- Did you just hear about a job opening your friend would be perfect for? Let them know about it — especially if they’ve been unhappy at their current position.
- Give them honest feedback, while also being their biggest advocate.
- Recognize them. For example, if a friend just wrote an amazing blog post, share it with your contacts. Who knows where that can lead to.
- Send them a gift or monetary donation, like a care package following a disaster or donation to a cause or campaign.
- Volunteer your time. This may be the biggest commitment, but sometimes it’s necessary to aside your time to help someone else out. If you physically can’t leave work, you can volunteer virtually through sites like I Could Be, DoSomething.org, and OnlineVolunteering.org.
3. Automate and delegate.
You can’t do this for every scenario, but there are ways that you can help others through automation and delegation.
For example, Giftfluence will automatically donate a percentage of sales from over 1,000 stores to charitable causes. There’s also Goodsearch that donates a penny to charitable causes for every search inquiry you perform.
If you publish content that can be used to inspire or enhance the lives of others, then automatically send that content to your email subscribers or share on your social channels.
As for delegation, you can use that to free-up some extra time. For example, if you have a team member who loves to write or has a knack for social media, then ask them if they would compose blog posts or manage your social channels. If you’re not strong at accounting, and it really bothers you, then hire a freelance accountant or bookkeeper to do this for you.
If you don’t have as many responsibilities, you may now have the ability to help others.
4. Help out on an as-needed basis.
If you recall, there was something called “donor fatigue” following the hurricanes that devastated Texas, Florida, and especially Puerto Rico. While I’m sure people wanted to donate or volunteer more than they could, it just wasn’t possible when there was the deadline — with back-to-back-to-back natural disasters.
Sometimes, you have to be a bit choosy.
Sure. Monetary donations aren’t an issue, but if you want to do more, then start looking for opportunities to help your local community, like organizing a 5K for a local charity. You could break things down even smaller, like cooking a homemade meal for a neighbor who is in need.
Other times, you may opt to set aside a couple of times throughout the year for giving back — like running a coat drive in the winter. This way you can block this time into your schedule well-in-advance.
5. Get your family and friends involved.
Do you think that you’re not spending enough time with your family? One way to correct that would be looking for volunteer opportunities that get your entire family involved.
This way you’re giving back to the community, while spending that valuable time with your spouse and children.
You can also merge giving back with social time.
6. Launch a volunteer incentive program.
If you’re a business owner, then consider launching a volunteer incentive program. This is where employees receive paid time off to volunteer. This way you’re doing some good while your time is compensated — it’s also a great way to spread brand awareness and strengthen the bond among your team.
If you don’t own your own business, you can always suggest the idea to those in charge.
7. Ask them to return the favor.
Finally, and this may sound shallow, but don’t hesitate in asking the other party to return the favor.
This doesn’t mean that it should be expected or that you hold this over the other person’s head. But, it’s only fair that favors should be reciprocal.
To make this as little awkward and uncomfortable as possible, Debbie Mayne over The Spruce has some suggestions;
- Be polite and direct.
- Request the favor in a positive light.
- Do not guilt trip them.
- Don’t cross boundaries — like asking a doctor for a free exam.
- Be respectable and fair — don’t request one-sided favors.
- Show gratitude.
- Take “no” for an answer.
- Help others out — when you help others, they actually tend to return the favor when you are in need.
- Don’t expect anything in return — ever. Do what you can for others, but if they can’t do something when you need something — they can’t. Let it go.