Dana Johnston, CMP, asked an important question about each of the tasks she had to complete each week: Can someone else do this?
In May 2020, Dana Johnston, CMP, was working as senior manager, convention operations and meetings, for the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) when the association made the decision to make
its annual meeting, IDWeek, virtual. That left Johnston, who manages industry relationships between IDSA and more than 150 pharmaceutical, diagnostic, and health-care companies, with “a very short window to pivot all of these industry partners to a virtual event,” she told Convene.
IDWeek is held jointly with four other medical associations, and there were many open questions, Johnston said, including how to create virtual booths, customer events, and advertising for partners. “I had to figure all of that out really fast and then articulate it in a way that would retain the industry partner dollars for the partner associations.”
As event deadlines approached, Johnston found herself working 12 hours a day, plus additional hours on weekends. At that time, “I felt like the whole world was doing it,” she said. In the meetings industry, “we had either lost our jobs or we were working really, really hard — it was one or the other.” But in 2021, as IDWeek approached, Johnston could see the number of hours she worked ticking upwards. Johnston knew that working 70-hour weeks “wasn’t what I wanted for my lifestyle,” she said, “because I had been burned out before in my early twenties.
“I think you have to make a decision,” Johnston said. “Ask yourself, ‘What am I willing to give of myself? And what is the price that it pays for my mental health, my family, and my relationships, and so forth?’ … And then you need to really articulate that to your manager or your leader and get some help getting additional resources.”
Acting on the advice of a mentor, Johnston began by writing everything down about her upcoming responsibilities and tasks, along with the hours she expected to spend on them in a spreadsheet. “Talking about your problems doesn’t get you to a solution,” the mentor had told Johnston. “Leadership needs to see it in black and white: These are the projects, these are the number of hours.”