I used to have a big problem with over-commitment myself. Now I consider myself a recovering over-committer. I still fall off the wagon a couple of times per year, but it used to be a daily constant state.
How Do You Know If You Are Over-committed?
You are sitting still. Really still. Yet your heart is racing and the activity around you is a blur. You can’t focus. All you can concentrate on is the tightening in your chest that is moving up your throat.
At least that keeps your mind still for a moment.
When you stop focusing on the physical symptoms of your overwhelm….aka anxiety in the moment…your mind starts whirring again.
All of the commitments run through your mind….over and over and over again. You haven’t even tackled the first one, yet you feel like you have handled them all….over and over and over again.
When in fact, you are frozen with inaction.
I have been here before. When I was young, I would be able to push through the inaction portion. I had more energy and I didn’t understand that this was not the normal way to live.
You just roll from one commitment to the next and you can sleep when you die.
Over-commitment in the Younger Generation
I don’t recommend this strategy, yet I still see it all around in the younger generation. My children and their contemporaries are full speed ahead. I recognize that they do have more energy than me and they can roll into one event after the other, day after day, weekend after weekend.
They do feel the stress though. It takes its’ toll. More and more twenty somethings seek counseling on their own. Once you enter the next two decades you don’t even have time for counseling, what with kid’s stuff being added on.
To me the stress and overwhelm of over-commitment in our society is mostly controllable. I say in part because there are many people who face challenges that were not their doing like illness, poverty, etc., that requires a whole other level of commitments.
We need to have commitments and keep the ones we do make. The key is to get ahead of it and meter what you get involved in and say you will do.
Who Controls Your Time?
You are in control of most of your time….even though I know it doesn’t feel like it. How often have you told yourself,
I have to help so and so
I have to go to the game, party, event
They need me to volunteer on Sundays
I have to help pay for that
But my husband/wife wants me to go
I am the only one who can lead this…
Our house is the only one big enough
But she needed someone to talk to
The list can literally go on and on. And it is more than just what people expect from us. It is our own expectations. We don’t want to miss out….on anything.
Everyone else is helping. It will be so much fun.
If I don’t go to the party, I will be jealous when I see all the Instagram photos.
Honestly, we don’t want to miss out. And, let’s face it, we all want to be wanted and needed.
But, at what expense.
Put First Things First
Stephen Covey explains it perfectly in his habit of Put First Things First in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You should read it. The whole book is applicable to all of us. However, in his teaching he explains:
- We must decide what is most important to us – who or what.
- We must schedule in time for these people or activities before we let other things creep into our schedule.
- We need to leave some flexibility in our schedule so that if emergencies happen, these most commitments are maintained.
- You have time to do all of the things that are truly important to you.
- You have less angst in making the decision to forego a request of your time and energy.
- You are less anxious and more present in the commitments that stay.
- You don’t drop all of the balls due to complete paralysis from over-commitment.
So, what does this mean when all of the other requests come in? It is simple. You say “no”.
The difference is that you are declining based on knowledge and prioritization. Usually we don’t take the time to determine our priorities. We just start saying “yes” until we are full. Then when a really important priority request comes in, we can’t say “no”. We don’t want to. So we either shove it in to an over-booked schedule or we let someone down by missing another obligation.
Take Back Your Schedule
Take some time today to step back and determine what is most important to you. Look at your schedule and block out time for these most important activities or people in your life.
If you need some help getting started, book one of our life coaching sessions today.