What to Do When You Find Yourself Over-Committed?

This month has been crazy busy. I have spoken publicly a dozen times already, and the month isn’t even over! In addition, I’ve had to finalize our strategic plan and attend two different board meetings. I’ve been on the road almost non-stop.

A Businessman Rushing Our of the Office with His Briefcase - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey, Image #9381744

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey

Who’s to blame? Me. I did it to myself.

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Have you ever found yourself in this situation, feeling like you have too much work and not enough margin? I have probably had four conversations on this very topic in the last two days.

The good news is that it can change. Here are seven strategies I am following:

  1. Accept responsibility. I am in this state because I made these commitments. No one forced me. No one held a gun to my head. As long as I am the victim, I am powerless to change. But the truth is, I have a choice. I can decline the work, delegate it, or—at the very least—negotiate the deadlines.
  2. Confront my fears. So often I over-commit because I am afraid to say, “no.” Sometimes, I am just afraid of disappointing someone. Or getting fired. Or not having enough work. Or missing an opportunity.
  3. Retain my perspective. This is a “season.” I’ll get through it, really I will. I just need to take a deep breath and acknowledge that “this, too, shall pass.” I have also discussed it with Gail, my wife, and several of my friends, so they don’t get frustrated, too.
  4. Triage my calendar. Perhaps there are some things that I can still get out of in order to buy myself some additional time. Believe me, I think it is important to keep my commitments (see Psalm 15:4). But that doesn’t mean I can’t request a release, ask for an extension, or delegate the project to someone else.
  5. Do the next most important thing. Worrying about everything I must get done is unproductive. It only creates anxiety. Yes, my workload may look impossible, but why dwell on it? Instead, I am trying to focus on the next most important thing—and keep moving. I try not to get ahead of myself. I have memorized Matthew 6:34:

    Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

  6. Get sufficient rest. I can tackle almost anything, provided I’ve had a good night’s sleep. When I get tired (as my wife can attest), I lose perspective. I also find it difficult to focus and become easily distracted. Two hours in the morning after a good night’s sleep are way more productive for me than two hours at night when I am worn out.
  7. Decide to change. I know that I must deliberately build margin into my life. No one else is going to do this for me. I can’t go on like this—and I don’t have to. But I must build new boundaries—and enforce them—or I will soon find myself in the same situation.

I have another two weeks to go before my calendar eases up. But I beginning to feel hopeful. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Questions: What about you? Are you feeling over-committed? What are you going to do about it?
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  • http://www.lamourtrainingsystems.com Jimmy Lamour

    One of the hardest things and best things I have learned is to say no. When I over commit I take my frustration out on my family sometimes and it is not fair to them. I agree meditation on the word and making the main thing the main thing is what it is all about. Great post!

  • http://www.kathyfannon.com Kathy Fannon

    Michael, when you’re under that kind of stress be sure you’re also eating extra healthy. Stress does goofy things to our bodies and you will get sick quickly if you don’t have proper nutrition to fight off ‘invaders’. (And this is the time of year for sickness, so be extra diligent.)

    Just my 2 cents…from a health coach perspective. :)

  • http://www.samdavidson.net Sam Davidson

    Been there. Am there.

    The key – I think – is to maintain some form of balance. That may be in aggregate (this month is packed; next month is low), or it may mean that each day you find that one thing that grounds and centers you.

    Being busy drains your energy, so you need something(s) that give you energy. Finding those will help anyone stay busy, well.

  • http://daveanthold.com Dave Anthold

    Much like you, I have an extremely demanding travel schedule over the next five weeks. One of the things I made sure I included was being home for the weekends. I have a bible study that meets on Friday nights & it was important for me that I always be home for that so that I can be in fellowship with my fellow believers.

    Without the fellowship, I am toast – the other stuff is secondary to making sure I have the fellowship.

  • http://bobdemoss.wordpress.com/ Bob DeMoss

    Hey Mike,

    I remember a brief, life-changing conversation on this topic I had with my father a number of years ago. It went like this:

    DAD: “Son, you’re far too busy. You need to slow down. If you don’t, you’re going to burn out.”

    ME: “But, Dad, there are too many important, worthwhile things to do. Besides, I’d rather BURN OUT than RUST OUT.”

    DAD: “Son–in either case you’re out.”

    Touché!

  • http://fghart.wordpress.com FGHart

    And here I’ve been thinking you’ve “got it together” … meaning, I guess, that you never find yourself swimming (or drowning) in the sea of overcommitment overload. Thank you for sharing this frank assessment of an all-too common scene and for offering some guidelines to your fellow swimmers.

    “Don’t fight the undertow or you’ll drown, exhausted. Acknowledge the situation and gradually ease out of it.” I needed this reminder today as I’m at the START of it: just now realizing I’m committing myself to more than I can handle over the next few months. Time to take a deep breath and accept/confront/prioritize, etc. I’m praying for God’s guidance as I prioritize.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Ahhh…yes. I know exactly what you mean, but your schedule makes my schedule look like a vacation in the Bahamas. At least, that’s what I am imagining. It’s still overwhelming. I try to balance my time between work, work, rest, and time with family. Sometimes, I’m successful.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    I’ve recognized that I need to get more rest and commit myself to my top level projects and be willing to outsource the rest. There’s just not enough hours in the day to do it all myself. If I continue to put in late hours time and time again, it affects my health and my ability to do good work. Anyway, sufficient rest is an item that I need to work on so that I’m more efficient/productive in my day-to-day.

  • Brad

    These are excellent practices to follow even when you don’t feel that you have yourself over-committed.

  • http://misternifty.com Brian Fegter

    Thanks for sharing Mike!

  • http://www.innovationpath.net Willie

    The right post at the right time! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • http://www.embracepositivepassion.com Georgiana

    At times in life there just seems like there’s way too many fabulous opportunities to get involved in and make a meaningful contribution. As the old saying goes — “when it rains, it pours!” I’ve learned that I need to incorporate “me” time in my agenda in order to clear my mind, relax and rejuvenate — whether it’s quiet time alone, taking a walk and getting fresh air, reading a book…etc. If I can’t give 100% of myself then I being a disservice instead giving service to others. :-)

  • http://www.embracepositivepassion.com Georgiana

    At times in life there just seems like there’s way too many fabulous opportunities to get involved in and make a meaningful contribution. As the old saying goes — “when it rains, it pours!” I’ve learned that I need to incorporate “me” time in my agenda in order to clear my mind, relax and rejuvenate — whether it’s quiet time alone, taking a walk and getting fresh air, reading a book…etc. If I can’t give 100% of myself then I being a disservice instead giving service to others. :-)

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