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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