More and more lately I have grappled with the idea of overcommitting, and the more I talk to the women around me, the more I realize they are struggling with the same thing. The tendency to overcommit is something many struggle with. In fact, a study done by the American Psychological Association recently found, despite participants’ current schedules, they somehow think they will have more time in the future and often find themselves committing to more than they can handle.
As it turns out, this overcommitment epidemic is also bad for our health, both mentally and physically, and can lead to a wide range of problems, including depression, diabetes, sleep problems, and inflammatory diseases, according to Peter Bongiorno, a Naturophathic doctor and President of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
I experienced this firsthand last fall. At one point, after another late night of working, my husband turned to me and said, “You’ve got to stop overcommitting.” My first instinct was to disagree with him and tell him he didn’t understand how much was on my plate right now. But as I lay in bed that night, I started to think about this further. There is a fine line between feeling accomplished and feeling off the rails. And I was pretty sure I had crossed that line.
When I engage in something, I want to be able to fulfill my obligations to the highest potential, and when I overcommit, I’m unable to do that. This leaves me feeling, not only emotionally and physically exhausted, but disappointed in myself for not doing things as well as I believe I could have or should have done them. It affects everything else around me, and I realized that it was no longer okay to let the people or projects in my life get the brunt of this. Not to mention the effect it had on me.
In an attempt to pull myself out of this overcommitment cycle, I came up with a list of times that I feel most centered:
- When I’m Spending Evenings with My Two Sweet Daughters. Sometimes work, social engagements, or date nights with my husband take me away during the evenings, and that’s okay. I try to stagger these so they don’t happen back to back, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s extremely important for me to be home with my girls during the dinners and bedtimes. I want to be the last one they see before they go to sleep, the one who tucks them in and hugs them goodnight, and the one who lets them know everything is going to be okay.
- When I Find Some Downtime To Decompress. We all lead busy lives, and while not every night includes time to unwind fully, I function best when I have two or three nights a week where I get an hour of alone time to do what I please, whether that’s watching a great television show, reading a compelling book, or taking a nice, long bath.
- When I’m Connecting With My Husband, Family, and Close Friends. These are the relationships that sustain me, and while I value quality over quantity, I’m happiest when I make room for these important people.
- When I’m Doing Fulfilling Work. It goes without saying that whether it’s my corporate day job, Model Behaviors, or the other causes I’m involved with, doing fulfilling work truly fuels me.
After this realization, I decided I needed an Overcommitment Plan. Here are the four questions I ask myself before saying YES:
- What am I giving up to do this? I’m borrowing this one from a friend. It sounds simple but it’s so true. Now every time I’m asked to get involved, I think about this. Does this mean less of the things that make me feel more centered? Does it mean losing the ability to fulfill my other commitments to my highest potential? If so, then for this time around, I will have to pass.
- What is the time commitment? It’s important to commit with your eyes open. Sometimes I find myself so intrigued by the idea of getting involved in something new (whether it be a new board, involvement at the girls’ school, or a philanthropic event) that I jump in headfirst without asking the right type of questions like how it relates to in-person meetings and the exact work that will need to be done during personal time.
- What are my current values and priorities? I have a short list in my phone of what my values and priorities are. Whenever I get asked to get involved with something new, I refer back to the list. If it doesn’t fit then I pass, or ask if the opportunity can be revisited at a later time. My values and priorities are ever evolving, and while this opportunity doesn’t align today, it may not be the case in the future. Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, covers this idea in a way that really resonated with me.
- Can this wait a season? For me, I think about the fact that my girls will never be this young again. They will continue to need me as they grow up but maybe not in the way they need me today. I want to be there for those moments, and for now maybe that means not saying yes to every opportunity that comes my way. It means being discerning about what I commit to.
I’m certainly not saying this is easy, at least it hasn’t been for me. My hope is that with a plan in place, it will be easier for me to say no or yes where it makes sense for me, and I will teach my daughters to value their time just the same.