#054: So You’re Overcommitted. Now What? [Podcast]

You swore you would never do it again. But you did it anyway. You said yes to far too many things. Now you find yourself overcommitted. What do you do now?


Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

We’ve all been there. You may be there now. In this episode we’ll look at some strategies for dealing with this common problem.

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As I write this to you, I have been and continue to be in the middle of a very busy season in my life. There is just a lot going on.

Surprisingly, even in this hectic time, I have not felt overwhelmed. I’ve had plenty of time for my family and my own personal development.

In this podcast, I want to share with you eight strategies I’ve used to reduce my commitments, create more margin, and feel like I am in control of my life.

  1. Strategy #1: Accept responsibility.
  2. Strategy #2: Confront my fears.
  3. Strategy #3: Reduce the drama.
  4. Strategy #4: Keep it in perspective.
  5. Strategy #5: Triage my calendar.
  6. Strategy #6: Do the next most important task.
  7. Strategy #7: Get sufficient rest.
  8. Strategy #8: Decide to change.

I really believe these strategies can make a difference in your life. Adopting them doesn’t mean you won’t get overcommitted from time to time (I still do), but you will better understand the dynamics and what to do about it when it happens.

Listener Questions

  1. Adam Rico asked, “How can you manage the stress of your commitments without damaging your own well-being?”
  2. Caleb Suko asked, “How do you deal with overcommitment when you are in a corporate culture that values busyness as a sign of success?”
  3. Eddie Cliff asked, “If I decide to quit an organization because I’m overwhelmed, how can I ensure the best possible outcome for them?”
  4. Jason J. Nicholas asked, “Should I step away from a major commitment in order to free up resources to apply elsewhere?”
  5. K.C. Procter asked, “How do you endure a season where are really having to hustle without getting burned out?”
  6. Mike Burn asked, “What percentage of your day do you actually plan vs. how much time you leave open for unplanned activities?”
  7. Mike Kim asked, “How do you accomplish all the things you love without getting overcommitted?”
  8. Peg Doyle asked, “How do you get the long-range, important stuff done when you feel so overwhelmed with the day-to-day activities?”
  9. Tor Constantino asked, “What do you do when you overcommit by double-booking your time?”

Special Announcements

  1. If you are considering launching your own platform, you need to start with a self-hosted WordPress blog. This is not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, I have put together a step-by-step screencast on exactly how to do it.

    I also include a special discount code just for my podcast listeners and blog readers. It will enable you to get a hosting account for just $3.95 a month.

  2. We have just opened registration for the Launch Conference,  September 16–19 at the beautiful Sebastian Hotel in Vail, Colorado.

    Whether you are a professional speaker—or just want to be—this conference will teach you how to start where you are and take your speaking business to the next level. Register now and get in on the “Early Bird discount,” which will be expiring soon.

  3. My next podcast will be on the topic of “How to Read a Non-Fiction Book.” If you have a question on this subject, please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote your blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What do you need to do now to keep yourself from getting overcommitted in the future? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://forthisisthetime.com/ Esther Aspling

    It took me a long time to start clearing things off of my calendar so that I could start putting the things that were actually important to me back on. I did not immediately quit my responsibilities, but slowly, one by one gave notice, finished responsibly and remained strong as they asked over and over if I would stay on.

    People may really appreciate ‘yes’ people, but they can respect a ‘no’ person.


    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great distinction Esther between “tyranny of the urgent” and what’s actually important.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Nothing personal, but one thing I do to effectively use my time, is I rarely listen to podcasts or watch videos on blogs. If a podcast or a video takes more than 3-5 minutes of my limited time, it throws my entire morning writing/blogging routine off schedule. I appreciate bloggers who include the written main points. Thanks, Michael.

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

      Time is precious Dan – That is why I listen to podcasts while running or driving. I have to drive anyways, and listening to podcasts like this one, the Entreleadership podcast, and Starve the Doubts podcasts are all ways to reward myself while exercising.
      I also love the way that Michael shares written main points, as well as the full transcript!

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        I do the same thing with running. I look forward to my daily run, not so much for the exercise but the opportunity to learn.

        • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

          I don’t miss opportunities to learn, Michael, but I’m a reader and a scanner. I can read and write when my daughter’s in bed at night and in the early morning. It’s a quiet activity that won’t wake her. I may be antiquated, but I haven’t really joined the iPod generation yet. I know it’s coming as my little girl gets older and wants her own iPod. I’m an audiophile and still like CDs or even vinyl as a music listener. I do appreciate the points on the podcast posts. Thanks.

        • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

          I owe you for sharing this tip with me – thanks!

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        Just got back from a podcast power walk. :)

        • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

          Nice. I rarely get the opportunity for a walk or run without my daughter. I don’t mind, but it leaves no time for podcasts.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        I’m a single dad with a full time job in a small city. No drive time, thank goodness. Very little exercise time as I’m with my eight-year old daughter most every waking hour outside of work/school. I prefer running and walking in silence when I do as it relaxes me and helps my creative processes.

        • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

          Maybe your daughter might enjoy listening to podcasts as bedtime stories? My two year old loves them in the car : )
          In all seriousness Dan, it sounds like you do have you hands full. Best wishes in making the most of the slivers of time you have – for a while, I was being antisocial during my lunch breaks, sandwich in one hand book in the other.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            I love your sense of humor, Jonathon. She may actually like podcasts as bedtime stories, but she’s already growing up so fast, I almost want to go back a step to Mother Goose.

            The other thing is this: sometimes I see/hear the same things over and over in posts and podcasts, and often it seems I intuitively know a lot of the information. Sometimes there are new items, too. That’s why I tend to do my learning from books. They go into more depth: especially psychology, philosophy, theology, and music biographies. I read occasional fiction and self-help/success, too.

          • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

            Thanks Dan – You are right about the market being crowded with rehashed, bite-sized learning. However, I think there is place for every method and depth. Part of why I started blogging, was to make much of the deeper content more accessible to other who might be intimidated by “Warrant and Proper Function” by Alvin Plantinga, for instance.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            Had to google Plantinga. As a communication guy, I’m familar with the concept of warrant from Toulmin’s work. And I agree there are different delievery methods for a variety of knowledge and the blog is one of them.

    • Liz Pike

      And one thing I do to effectively use my time is I listen to podcasts and videos at various points of my day such as when I’m getting ready in the morning, driving to work, or fixing supper. I know this is multi-tasking but I choose to use this time for great information instead of the usual fare such as music on the radio or newscasts/shows that invariably leave me depressed.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        That’s a great idea Liz, but I dedicate these little blocks of time to my daughter. She’s almost eight and requires the attention of an eight-year old. I guess I could listen to podcasts after she’s in bed, but then I’d be less likely to write books, poems, and songs, and practice music. I’m a creative guy and tend to use my creativity as a way to wind down.

  • http://TheTouchMarketing.com Kathy Hogeveen

    I declared last week that I am a ‘defuncted superwoman’. I couldn’t agree more with this list of suggestions and it took me writing down what I was committing to each day via a CRM tool to look at my list of tasks and calendar. I was committing to more than was humanly possible in a day, often disappointing my family, friends and clients. Like you it started with overcoming people pleasing and realizing that I was not helping anyone when I wasn’t taking care of myself first. I completely resonate with this post. Thank you for articulating it so very well.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great comment Kathy! You mentioned calendar management – one of the things I do to help “shape the blast” of my daily schedule is to review my calendar the night before. This allows me to mentally prepare for what needs to get done versus what would be “nice” to get done.

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  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    As a people pleaser and perfectionist, I can really get into trouble here. The type of work or role an individual has can magnify the issue. I’ll absolutely have to check out “Boundries for Leaders,” thanks for the recommendation!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      You and I are in the same boat brother – rowing with the oars of people pleaser and perfectionist. Your point about “magnification” is a good one to keep in mind. Thanks man!

      • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

        Great analogy Tor! It’s very easy to end up with both those oars on the same side of the boat, giving the illusion of motion but none of the advantages of actually getting somewhere. Even with all the splashing.

  • 48DaysDan

    About five years ago I resigned from the last non-profit board I was on – and vowed to never be on another one. They move way too slowly for my tastes and I just believe my time can be used in better ways. Making strategic decisions like that have helped me keep first things first – instead of just trying to be a nice guy.

    • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

      I never really understood why some people want to be on those non-profit boards!

    • http://www.workyouenjoy.com/ Adam Rico

      I was blown away when I read Love Does by Bob Goff and how he quits things every Thursday. I’m not sure I’m at that level yet but I love the idea of choosing to quit something in order to allow space to invite better opportunities into our lives.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        I’ve really been intrigued by Bob’s practice too.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Ugh. You would go and mention that. I have one I need to resign from.

      • 48DaysDan

        It sounds so honorable and noble. But I’ve found them to be tremendous time suckers.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Thanks for the great example and reminder Dan – it’s important to align our skill and temperament with the RIGHT commitments. I need to be more mindful of this golden truth!

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Michael, thanks for answering my question. I appreciate your advice to change the culture below me, that’s something that I have done a little but need to be more intentional about! Blessings!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This happens a lot in organizational like. You’re probably not doing this, but it used to be easier for me to complain about the culture above me rather than take control of the culture I was creating around and under me. Thanks.

      • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

        You’re right, sometimes it is too easy to complain but now I’m inspired to work on the culture below me! Thanks!

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com/ Adam Rico

    I need to continue to stay focused on my priorities in this season of life. I need to say no to the items not in alignment with my priorities and yes to the items that will move me in the direction of my goals. I’m a recovering people pleaser as well so it’s often difficult for me to say no to things I like in order to do things I love. Thanks for taking my question and for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Me too, Adam. I’ve long had the habit of “letting myself down” in order to avoid letting someone else down. Finally, with some age and experience, I’m learning wisdom knows when to say an emphatic “no.”

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

      When I get stuck in the people pleaser cycle, I have found it helpful to choose quality over quantity. That’s helped me the most in this area.

  • http://twitter.com/quirkycity Heather C Button

    I really appreciate what you said in Strategy #3, Reduce the drama. The words “it meets my need for significance” hit me right in my core. I say yes far more because someone asks and it meets my need to feel significant, rather than say no and focus on my dreams. I realize I now need to understand why my dreams make me feel insignificant compared to what others expect of me. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It really helps to look “under the hood” and see what drives our behavior. This is where I have found human needs psychology really helpful. Thanks.

  • http://KCProcter.com/ ThatGuyKC

    Thank you for taking my question, Michael! Appreciate your wisdom and insight. God bless.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      KC – I agree, Michael’s various information channels are invaluable resources for those of us who hope to learn and become all that we can be.

  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    Thank you for another awesome podcast, Michael!

    It’s amazing how much people over-commit. I’m working on this myself as people often hear me say “Let’s meet for coffee!”. It is only after I say it that I realize that 1) I don’t have any extra time for another coffee meeting and 2) My mortgage company cannot be paid in coffee beans. Actually, I use the latter statement when someone wants to “pick my brain” and I really should be getting paid for the advice I’m giving them. It makes it easier to draw a line and to not over-commit.

    I read Boundaries years ago and it truly changed my life. I’m definitely looking forward to reading Boundaries for Leaders and have it requested from my local library already.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      The ”pick your brain” sessions can really kill you.

  • http://kenzimmermanjr.com/ Ken Zimmerman Jr.

    I took the first two steps this year. The first happened by accident. My father-in-law got very sick, so I would not leave town to referee at some Taekwondo tournaments. By not doing the tournaments, I realized how much time I was committing to do them. And the tournaments ran just fine without me.
    Last week, I stepped down from a ministry position that I had created several years ago. I realized that there were a few men, who were bettered positioned to carry out these functions and by staying in the position, I was inhibiting their continued growth.

    I think in both cases the positions increased my sense of self worth but if I want to be truly effective, I need to be much more intentional. Thank you, Michael. This podcast really spoke to me.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ken. I am so glad. I just preach to myself and hope I hit someone else in the process. ;-)

  • http://www.shaunnestor.com ShaunNestor

    Great strategies, thanks, Michael. As important as Strategy #5 is, I think people forget to prioritize “every day” tasks that are not on the To Do list. Adding structure *before* tackling the To Do list can help maintain a balanced work-flow. For example, enjoying the morning cup of coffee, reading devotions, and catching up on news that interests you (not necessarily work-related), gives time to mentally refresh. The work will be there tomorrow; under-promise and over-deliver.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great point. I try to do this ever day as well by identifying my must-do tasks. I also arrange my tasks in the order I plan to tackle them. Thanks.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Talk about timely…how did you know Michael?

    Thank you for this!

    I don’t have a problem saying “no” when the opportunity sucks. I have a problem saying “no” when it’s good.

    To answer your question, I am going to start saying “no” to one good thing each month to make more time for something great.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s the challenge of success. You end up having to say no to really great opportunities. It becomes a bandwidth problem. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/mikekimtv Mike Kim

    Michael, thanks so much for answering my question on the podcast. I’ve done life planning, I suppose at 34 I still have areas which overlap yet positively impact each other. I’m between ministry vs. business, both of which are doing great. I’m a bit atypical in that I was in ministry first but now business is booming…would love any advice you have or books/blogs you recommend on that kind of transition. So thankful for you!

    • http://www.seannisil.com/ Sean Nisil

      I would like to echo this question as I’m in a similar situation. I run a ministry and work full time in the business world. I’m constantly having to make sure my priorities are in line, seek wisdom through prayer, all the while remembering what my good friend Solomon once said that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity…”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Mike, you might want to check out Dan Miller. He’s helped quite a few people transition from ministry to business life.

      • http://twitter.com/mikekimtv Mike Kim

        Thanks so much, Joe!

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ J.D. Meier

    I like that you framed it as a busy season — giving space for “this too shall pass.”

    I also like that you laid out very specific strategies to change the story forward.

    For me, I use some specific metaphors, strategies, and reminders:

    – Close the flood gate (don’t create your own productivity leaks)
    – Clear your plate, before taking on more.
    – Yes, not now. (timing is everything)
    – Don’t start what you can’t finish.
    – Less is more (Be quality, not a commodity)
    – It’s outcomes, not activities (Busy doesn’t mean effective)
    – DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do)

    Most importantly I remind myself that staying agile means closing the loop. You can’t respond to new opportunities when there are too many balls in the air or too much unfinished business.

    I’m a fan of “traveling light” and “flowing value” along the way.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Love this. Excellent!

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great tips Michael and this is one area I’m continuing to figure out. These tips are great.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      It almost comes with the territory Kimanzi – you know the saying, “If you want something done give it to a busy person.” Regrettably, we typically are the cause of our own demise because of our ability to get things done. That makes us feel like we can tackle even more without seeing the potential stress points and breakage.

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    A mentor told me a few weeks ago the following: “Busyness doesn’t control you; you control it.” She helped me to see that some of the pressure I feel is a result of self-imposed expectations—not external commitments. If I’m overwhelmed, I can (and should) release myself from those self-set deadlines to ease the overwhelmed feeling.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Amen to that. You are making an important distinction.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Love that quote Michele!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.sheveland Pat Huss Sheveland

    Too funny… I just posted my blog post tonight and had never opened my emails so just saw this! My post was being an over-commitment junkie and how I was going to change up my calendar!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Pat, your point about being an “over-commitment junkie” is spot on. In an earlier comment, I noted that I get an “addictive rush” when I accomplish a task and check the box. The momentary euphoria makes me think that I can add more tasks and meetings to my calendar. That addictive behavior is eerily similar to the behaviors of other addictive personality types.

  • Gale Guevara

    How do you deal with wanting to commit to not hurt someone’s feeling but you know you’re plate is full

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      This is a big issue for me Gale – Michael gives great advice about gently asking for deadline extensions, level-setting expectations or clearly establishing boundaries when new requests come in.

      However, I think his greatest point was the room we’ll make in our lives if we have a “heart attack.” I actually went through that scary scenario last year and it helped reset my life priorities.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Great tips – and thanks for answering my question Michael.

    One of the things I find is that I’m almost “addicted” to accomplishing tasks.

    I find that there’s a bit of a rush I have checking something off the list, which makes me feel like I can add another thing into the queue.

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  • http://twitter.com/LectriceUSA Laura E. Kelly

    My husband and I have been so struck by how many people these days tell us they’re “swamped” and can’t make or keep a commitment that we’ve start keeping track of the phenomenon on a new blog called SwampedLand. Your 8 podcast strategies, Michael, will be mentioned under the category “Draining the swamp.”

    Our question is: if EVERYONE is swamped these days, can “I’m too swamped” even be used as a valid excuse anymore?


    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s an interesting topic to keep track of on a blog Laura. Will you also keep track of the reasons for being swamped or just the blogs and articles reporting on it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/why.ele.9 Yvonne Eele

    Years ago someone I worked for said ” Yvonne, you are so busy putting out fires that you never have time to fight them.” I was a manager not a fire fighter. I learned from him that it is good to delegate and to make sure I prioritize my time so that I am accomplishing the most especially with things I enjoy. I also learned you don’t get to the end of the hike by thinking or looking at it but one step at a time. Thank you for the reminder that we might not get everything done but if we take care of the next most important thing eventually we will get there.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Yvonne, it’s great to learn that delegation comes in handy when we are getting busy. It allows us to touch more things in a hands off approach.

  • http://asmithblog.com/ asmithblog

    Another great podcast, Michael. A quick question for you Michael about podcasting-I think I heard you talk about this before, but how much time do you spend editing a podcast?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thankfully, I don’t do it anymore. I have a podcast producer. But it would typically take about 60–90 minutes.

  • Eddie Cliff

    Thanks for taking my question Michael! Love suggestion number 6. So effective.

    Had already had a listen to the other podcast you mentioned, which was great.

    Would love to hear people’s thoughts especially on how you can set an organisation up to succeed (the emphasis on the organisation’s ongoing success rather than your own)?

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I’ve got to become better at saying NO to the commitments people want me to take on. While there will be times when I need to, there definitely are times I need to become more active in saying no.

  • http://www.SenseiAndo.com/ Ando

    “You’ve got to choose increasingly not between the good and the bad, but between the better and the good.”

    So true. On the way up, you grow accustomed to being presented with several poor options and maybe one good option… so you jump on it. Then when you grow successful–and you’re presented with more and more options ranging from good to great–your habit of jumping on ANYTHING good will sink you.

    The luxury of choice demands a new skill set– taste. You must let go of the starvation mentality and choose to only consume the best.

    Thank you, Michael!

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  • http://www.TheArtofDiscipline.com/ Craig Desmarais

    This was an excellent podcast that I think everyone needs to hear that will help you create more margin in your life or avoid falling into over-commitment. I like how John C. Maxwell says to plan out every hour of your week that way you know what you should be devoting your time to and also be aware when you are straying from your plan.

  • chiseled_images

    Wish I would have listened to this episode a couple weeks ago when it came out rather than queuing it and just now listening to it. I was over committed on a programming project. I thought I could handle it, but it turned out to be over my head. Two months later of many sleepless nights (programming is not a normal service I offer) I finally emailed the client to humbly let them know it was just to much and admit that I needed to man up to my mistake of taking this on. As a rather new small business owner, it made me sick to my stomach to tell this to the client. I guess it’s just part of earning my stripes and glad I learned this lesson now. Just hope I really learned it.

  • Nancy Wallace

    Hi Michael,
    I really enjoyed this podcast. One book that has been invaluable in helping our organization move ahead and not get mired in the “whirlwind” of life is ” 4DX….The Four Disciplines of Execution”.