Choosing a “word of the year” has become popular, and the word most people choose at the beginning of the year is a “doing” word. Their word encourages them to do more, try harder, reach out and stretch themselves. I’m all about self improvement…right up until you implode from doing too much. So here are my humble thoughts on overcoming overcommitting.
1. How do you get your sanity back if life is just too crazy? Time for a little self discovery.
- Are you constantly tired?
- Where do you spend your time today that you feel happy, safe, and energetic?
- If you can’t pinpoint any activities that make you feel happy, safe and energetic today, can you remember a time when you were involved in something that did bring you joy?
- Write down everything that you are involved in today, every job, every social and family requirement, every volunteer commitment, every online group, plus your family members’ activities.
- Plot each and every one of those things into a monthly paper calendar. You don’t need to get all fancy with color coding and stickers. Just write in each commitment you have for the next month on a paper calendar. I love online planners for day-to-day organizing, but this exercise might work best on a printed calendar where you can see the crazy. If you can’t print yours out and you don’t have an old-school calendar, you can go here to print a free monthly calendar page. This should take you about 10 minutes.
Did you really fill out a month’s worth of commitments on a planner?? Good.
2. Review Your Calendar to Overcome Overcommitting
Now, point to each activity, think about it, and listen to your body. Do you get tense or make a face when you think about some of the things you are committed to?
Did you find yourself thinking, I wish I could get to the gym more often? Or were you thinking that you’d like to take up a hobby that you’ve had your eye on? Or did this activity get you thinking about a big trip that you’ve never had time to plan?
Guess who put all those things on your calendar? You did.
Guess who can add the gym, a new hobby, or trip planning to your calendar? Only you.
And lucky you, you are looking right at the way to fix it. You have everything you need to overcome overcommitting.
3. Strategies to Fix the Craziness and Overcome Overcommitting
You might not be able to stop doing something you hate right this moment. Maybe you are committed to running a Girl Scout troop through the end of May. But right now you can schedule in your new hobby in that same time slot starting in June. Then when you are asked to run the troop next year, you can honestly say, “So sorry, but I am already committed to something else at that time.”
More likely, you have a lot scheduled that you don’t hate, but you don’t love, either. If you imagined not doing that in the future, do you get a squinchy, unhappy feeling in your gut, or do you feel relief? You don’t need to do anything about it right now. Just notice what you are feeling. If you feel sad imagining not being a part of something, then by all means, stay involved in it! Keep doing what you love.
Give yourself a legitimate break. When I scheduled my foot surgery last December, I suspended my gym membership for a month. When I found out I’d be in protective footwear and later traveling for a couple of weeks, I again asked for my membership to be suspended until April. There’s just no need to feel guilty about missing the gym when I’m not yet cleared to go. There’s also no reason to keep paying the monthly fee.
Are your kids running you ragged? My hats off to you if you enjoy running your kids to a sport, a music lesson, language, clubs, and playdates. That’s just a little too much for me, personally. More importantly, if you run a completely crazy schedule, and your kids are out all the time, and everyone is always hungry and grumpy, are you teaching your kids to overcommit? Talk over the schedule with everyone, and you might find some wiggle room in the calendar to just be uncommitted a bit more often.
4. Actively Improve Your Life while Overcoming Overcommitting
Before you put that printed calendar away, take one more look. I’d love for you to schedule two specific items in writing:
- Write down 1 appointment to take care of your physical self in the next week or month (work out, get haircut, schedule doctor’s appointment, etc.)
- Protect your mental health by strengthening relationships. Call, email or snail mail one person you’d like to stay in contact with. Bonus points if you actually schedule lunch with them.
If you do these two things, even if you are still overcommitted, you’ll at least be finding time to take care of yourself, and not just running helter-skelter from one activity to another.
These come right out of my 31 Daily Organizing Habits, which you can find here. There’s a free printable list, and you can add habits one by one, until you have a much better handle on your space, your time, and the information in your life.