Time Management

Over-Committed? 10 Questions to Ask

It’s incredibly easy to end up over-committed. Without fierce vigilance about what you, and others, try to cram into your schedule, you will almost inevitably wake up one morning with the feeling you’ve got too much on your plate.

I’m writing this from a highly personal place right now. I’m finally paying attention to the multiple times I’ve come across the same message: diluting my efforts is slowing my progress and leaving me feeling frazzled and ineffective. In the coming weeks I’ll be doing some scary thinking and making tough choices about the products I offer and content I produce.

Questions when over-committed | Pauline Wiles

Do you ever feel like you’re in the same boat? If so, I’m sending you a virtual hug and a cup of tea.

Questions to clarify your thinking:

  1. If you got sick, how much of this stuff could wait, adapt, or reduce?
  2. Is your workload too broad, or too deep?
    Too broad, and you’ll probably see many fragments: you work on 20+ tasks in a day without feeling any sense of progress. Too deep, and you’ll have a small number of specific projects, but masses of work, nonetheless.
  3. Did someone else dump this on you (honestly)? Or did you fail to be assertive in saying no, or maybe even you got over-zealous about what you wanted to work on?
  4. Did you wriggle with the truth that there will never be time to do everything, and that choices are inevitable?
  5. Are you spending more time on repeaters than completers?
    In other words, is there so much task overhead, that it’s interfering with forward progress?
  6. If this opportunity were offered to you today, would you take it?
    Or have some of these tasks been “grandfathered” into your workload somehow? Are you giving “sunk costs” too much weight?
  7. Are you doing anything just because you think you should, or because everyone else is?
  8. What difficult conversation is needed to reduce this responsibility, and are you afraid to have it?
  9. Does your head tell you some of your efforts are going nowhere?
    If you have analysis available to you, look for the 80% of your work which is only bringing 20% of your results.
  10. Does your heart tell you a task or project is just wrong?
    Does it feel icky, or inauthentic, or otherwise draining? Are you stealing from sleep to try to “get it all done“?

For me, the answers are revealing:

1: Yes, almost all of it. 2: Far too broad. I’ve been hiding behind the “multipassionate”  label as an excuse to scatter my brain cells. 3: It was me, all me. 4: Yeah. 6: Would I join Instagram today? No way. 9: If I dared check my website analytics, yes. 10: Absolutely.

What to do about it:

Not surprisingly, you’ll get many clues from your answers to the questions above. And I could probably write an entire blog post about each of those ten. But I’d suggest the following actions, and this is what I’ll be doing:

  • Put some distance between yourself and your “workload”. A mini retreat, weekend change of scene, or even an hour at a new cafe, is ideal.
  • Accept that if you’re in a pickle, it won’t just go away. You will have to make some choices, and they may feel tough.
  • Remember that the rest of the world isn’t paying as much attention to what you’re doing (and stopping doing) as you think.
  • Identify two or three things you’d like to drop. Make a note of why you feel that way.
  • Start with baby steps: quietly stop doing something and see how it feels. You don’t have to announce it, or burn bridges. If it helps you let go, consider it a trial.
  • If necessary, or if others are heavily entwined with your projects, have one of those difficult conversations.
  • Put a reminder in your calendar to evaluate in a week, or a month. Refer back to the notes you made about why you wanted to drop a task or project.
  • Be especially vigilant to the causes of you getting over-committed in the first place. Your goal now is to be mindful about what you allow onto your plate.

In many ways it’s a benefit of our modern world that most of us have more choices than ever before on how to spend our time. But I, for one, need to remember that my schedule is not an all-you-can-eat buffet. Just because a myriad of exciting opportunities present themselves, it doesn’t mean I should flit from one to another like a butterfly with OCD.

So, I’d love to know, to what extent do you feel (or have you felt) over-committed? What are your tips for dealing with it?

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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    Elizabeth Ducie
    May 22, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    Pauline, you’ve been reading my mind again! I go through this situation around once a year on average. It usually starts with panic, moves to tears and results in a few short-term fixes. And for every task or project I give up, at least two more ‘exciting opportunities’ come along to take their place. I have now decided enough is enough. I am taking time over the next few weeks while on holiday to take a mini-retreat, ask those hard questions and come up with some permanent changes. I’ll let you know how I get on.

    1. Reply
      May 23, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Elizabeth, I’m so glad this struck a note with you, although not sorry you’re in the same boat. Yes, please let me know how you get on and any tips!!

  2. Reply
    Jean | Delightful Repast
    May 26, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Pauline, I’ve been on the verge of pursuing a certain project, but then I’ve just started dabbling with paints and doing a bit of gardening again. And I think, uh, do I really want to pursue this bit of work and risk being over-committed, even though I could use the money? Hmm. I’ll let you know. But you certainly know how to get the old wheels turning! I’m so glad I never got started with Instagram and Facebook!

    Thank you for visiting my current post and entering the fab giveaway. The only way I get the opportunities to offer these things to my readers is if my blog has the traffic and the response to impress the brands, so I’m always holding my breath hoping that will be the case.

    1. Reply
      May 27, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      Jean, your giveaways are always right up my street, and I know that traffic is important for your work with sponsors.

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