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Overwhelmed? Take it Easy

The next time you feel overwhelmed by a big project, make it easy on yourself by approaching it this way: little by little by little.

Years ago I volunteered to be in charge of the refreshments at church. My job was to recruit 48 people every month to bake a cake or bring some cookies.

I struggled to recruit that many volunteers and it quickly became overwhelming. To make it worse, as my overwhelm grew, fewer and fewer people volunteered to help.

People began to run away when they saw me coming. So, I gave up recruiting and tried to bake most of the goodies myself. This was a huge task and I quickly burned out and resigned.

My successor was Sue King, a social worker. I watched in amazement as within two weeks she had enlisted 48 volunteers.

This is how she did it: She broke it down into little steps. Instead of recruiting all 48 people herself, she recruited eight team captains who were willing to be in charge once a month. They each recruited six people who would donate one refreshment a month.

When I was in charge, I was begrudgingly doing everything. Under this plan, more than 48 people were happily participating.

One of the secrets of Sue’s success was that, unknowingly, she applied the principle of To Lead is to Serve. Sue continually served the team captains. If a captain could not find six people, she helped recruit them. Since she was not baking everything herself, she had time to meet people and ask if they would like to participate. She constantly made the team captains feel that she was supporting them.

Another secret of Sue King’s success was dividing the work into small increments. I was trying to recruit 48 people. Sue was only looking for eight.

Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem in the same way. The wall around the city was its major protection. Today, a wall is not a primary defense system but in Nehemiah’s day, a wall was central to the city’s safety.

Rebuilding it was such a huge task that most people thought it couldn’t be done. However, Nehemiah saw it another way. He divided the task into tiny sections, asking each person to be responsible for a small portion. Everyone did a little. In this way, a huge task was accomplished quickly.

While reading about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall, I could envision each group doing its part with great enthusiasm. It reminded me of my refreshments project and others I have worked on. They are more successful when a lot of people do a little, as opposed to one or two people doing everything.

The next time you face a project that seems big and overwhelming, divide your work into small steps. Make it easy by doing it this way: little by little by little.


About the Contributor: Shar McBee

Shar is the author of two bestselling books: To Lead is to Serve which was quoted by the President of the United States on television, and Joy of Leadership which went to #7 on the Amazon Business Bestseller list.

NonProfits use Shar McBee’s leadership method to:

  • Double Donations
  • Triple Memberships
  • Increase Volunteers 500%

Your job is not to get people to work. Your job is to make it possible for them to succeed.” – Shar McBee

Shar has been a motivational speaker for over 20 years. Her keynotes are geared to NonProfit conferences and Leadership for Women. Shar was a teacher at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, an entertainment reporter for CBS News in Hollywood, the assistant to a congressman, and a public relations agent for Phylicia Rashad when the Cosby Show was #1 on television.

As a volunteer, Shar built wells in a village in India, organized a concert for homeless children in Australia, raised money for an orphanage in China, and managed a voter registration drive in California. Her current interest is Explore & Explain, a program that gives unique, life-enriching opportunities to children in Maryland. Shar has served on ten Boards of Directors and is a creative fundraiser. Today Shar’s mission is to help good people become joyous leaders.

Shar McBee’s presentations include:

  • To Lead is to Serve
  • Joy of Leadership
  • Joy of Fundraising
  • To Lead is to Laugh
  • Leadership for Women
  • Shakespeare, Scrooge & the Joy of Leadership
  • Double Your Donations.  Triple Your Members.  Increase Your Volunteers 500%.

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