Many of us are just plain over-committed.
Although there are a lot of deep and interesting reasons that people choose to take on too much, they generally tend to fall into one of three categories:
- Poor time management habits
- The fear of saying “no” to others
- The tendency towards control or perfectionism
Beating the over-commitment battle is a lot easier when you practice using the right tools and habits. Here are seven simple but effective ones to help you get started:
1. Use a calendar and time-management planning tool. If you’re working in the 21st century, this step isn’t optional. Seeing your commitments in black and white is the best way for you to be clear about what you have on your plate and allow you to make better commitment decisions.
2. Create good boundaries. What isn’t stated and scheduled tends to get ignored, and taking care of yourself, your home (and your loved ones) is every bit as important as your work. Not only will others learn to adjust over time, they will most likely respect and admire you for taking a stand.
3. Commit to the 30-second, 30-minute, and 30-hour rule. Commit to not responding to requests right away. Instead, give yourself 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or 30 hours (depending on the size and complexity of the project) to think about what’s involved and how it would impact your other commitments before you make a decision. It’s not hard – just say, “Let me check my calendar.”
4. Be clear on what you are agreeing to. When facing a new project or opportunity, ask about the responsibilities and time commitments involved. Try to avoid new projects that seem open-ended, without a clear goal, objective, or timeline.
5. Know your tendencies and traps. A part of any time-management program is breaking old habits. The more time you spend thinking about mistakes you’ve made in the past (and especially when, where, how and to whom you’ve made decisions that have led to over-commitment), the less likely you are to repeat them.
7. Remember that “no” and “not now” are perfectly good answers. If you aren’t used to turning people down, it can be hard. Don’t be afraid to try it out: Turning down projects is a good way to decrease your stress, do better work on your existing projects, and show others that you can manage your time. It can also be great for your health and personal relationships.
Ask yourself these three questions when faced with a new commitment:
- Do I really have time to commit to it without it causing unnecessary stress or conflicts?
- Is it something that I really want to do and that would bring me more joy or relief than whatever else is planned for the time this would take?
- What would happen if I didn’t do it? Can I live with this answer?
Freeing your mind and your calendar from commitments you have made because at the time you didn’t know better, is a smart and responsible decision. After all, you only get one life; are you spending it the way you really want to?
Challenge: Identify two things that you will “un-commit” to this week. Please feel free to share your “un-commitments” with us!