In a world that celebrates the hustle and grind, it’s easy to find yourself constantly overcommitting your time and energy or on menial tasks that never move us toward the life we want to live. It’s no wonder then that people live in a state of perpetual overwhelm, burnout, stress, or anxiety.
The good news is that you can break the pattern of overcommitting yourself and take control of your life. Committing to yourself first and implementing the tips below will help you break out of this old pattern and stop the anxiety, burnout, fatigue, and overwhelm you have been experiencing so you can start living life on your terms.
Like any pattern we consistently repeat, there will be learning stages involved in breaking it. At first, you may find that you don’t even realize you have overcommitted yourself until you’re already in a state of overwhelm and frustration.
When this happens, take time to figure out where things went wrong that led to the overcommitment. From there, you can apply these tips to break the cycle.
How To Stop Over Committing
1. Do a Time Audit
To get your time, energy, and commitments under control, you need to figure out where they are leaking.
To do this, grab a notebook and set an alarm every 15 minutes on your phone. Use these check-ins to write down what you did in the fifteen-minute timeframe. Do this exercise for a minimum of three to seven days.
At the end of each day, or week, take time to reflect on how you spend your time. Try considering that each minute is $1 and whether that time or “money” was well spent. From there you can use this exercise to decide if a task is something you should continue, stop or delegate.
If you’ve ever heard the story of the philosophy teacher filling the jar with rocks you can take this exercise one step further and decide if each task is a rock, a pebble, or sand.
2. Know Your Limits
We have a finite amount of mental energy each day. Because of this, we are limited in the number of tasks we can complete. Brian Tracy, one of the world’s experts in productivity and time management, suggests that we are capable of completing three to six tasks each day. 
You may find that there are days when you have less energy and can only complete three tasks. While other days you can do more. Is there a pattern to this energy flow?
Women, typically have less energy during their menstrual cycle and may complete fewer tasks. You may find that you have more energy on Mondays than you do on Fridays or during the first week of the month than the last.
When we start to pay attention to our patterns and how our energy flows, we can be better prepared to know when to draw the line on what we are capable of achieving.
3. Never Commit Right Away
Give yourself a buffer to consider all factors before committing to anything. Politely let the person know that you will get back to him within a day so that you can assess yourself if you can commit. This gives you:
- Time to consider your other obligations
- See the importance of this commitment
- Prepare how you will respond
It’s important to give yourself this buffer if you made lots of decisions that day. Studies on decision fatigue show that the more decisions someone has to make during the day, the poorer quality their decisions become. As our mental energy for the day decreases, so do our willpower and ability to make decisions that are aligned with our goals and needs.
4. Overestimate the Amount of Time Required
One of the reasons people end up overcommitting is that they don’t consider the amount of time it will take to complete a task. People may consider that an appointment will last for an hour but fail to consider the time it takes to travel to and from the appointment, sitting in traffic, or if someone is running late.
If we overestimate the time required, we build a natural buffer to allow ourselves to deal with any challenges that may arise. If a task takes less time than we’ve allotted, you end up with extra time to commit to yourself and practice more self-care.
5. Check in With Your Gut
Be honest, how many times have you committed to something you really didn’t want to do? Then you end up not only overwhelmed because of overcommitting, but also resentful towards yourself.
When you give yourself the buffer before making a decision, you also give yourself time to check in with yourself and ask:
- Is this something I want to do?
- Is this something I feel obligated to do?
- Do I have the energy to follow through and feel good about it?
- Will this commitment drain my energy and lead to negative emotions?
If you feel this commitment is more out of obligation or if it’s something you really don’t want to do, say no. It’s okay to say no to a commitment even if it will let someone else down.
There is no point in sacrificing your mental health to make someone else happy.
6. Check in With Your Goals & Values
- Is committing to this move you towards your goals or further away?
- Will it take time and energy that could be used towards your goal?
- Is this commitment aligned with your values and beliefs?
If a commitment is far from your goals, or out of alignment with your values and beliefs, the cost is much more than just time. The energetic toll on you will keep you stuck in overcommitment and overwhelmed for a lot longer.
It can also lead to more frustration and resentment in the long run if your goals are delayed.
7. Know Where You’re Going
To make intentional decisions, you need to know where you are going. Whether this is a short-term goal or the legacy you want to leave behind in your life, you can’t make intentional decisions without this information.
Without knowing the end destination you’re shooting for, every opportunity becomes just another shiny object that could distract you.
8. Set Boundaries
Once you’ve determined whether you want to commit or not, set the boundaries for your time and energy.
If you’ve decided not to commit, use the following language patterns to set a firm, yet respectful boundary:
- I appreciate this opportunity but now is not the right time for me to take on an additional workload.
- I respect your courage to ask for help on this project, but my plate is full and this may affect the quality of my work
- I agree it’s important to ask for help but agreeing to help you would overwhelm me.
If you are agreeing to the commitment, it’s still important to set boundaries on your time, energy, and expectations.
9. Stick to Your Decision
Once you’ve made your decision, move on from it. Contemplating whether you made the right decision or not only keeps you stuck expending additional energy on the commitment that you already decided to take or wasn’t a priority for you.
Make your decision and move on from it quickly.
10. Stop Keeping Score
In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about the law of reciprocity. This is when someone does something for us or gives us something, and we feel obligated to do or give something in return. Often people end up overcommitting to something out of obligation.
However, this obligation becomes an even bigger energy drain when we begin to experience resentment or other negative emotions when overcommitting.
Instead of keeping score over who you owe what, remember that returning a favor is best done from a place of having a genuine desire to help someone or give them your time and energy.
11. Know Your Priorities
The Pareto Principle tells us that 80% of the output of a given situation is determined by 20% of the input. We can use this principle to our advantage when determining which tasks to commit to and which to delegate or just let pass.
To use this principle, ask yourself which tasks will require 20% of your time, energy, or effort, but will yield an 80% result. Prioritize those tasks and delegate the rest to avoid overwhelm and overcommitment.
12. Reprogram Limiting Beliefs
Overcommitting is common in people who have taken on traits of people pleasing or perfectionism. However, oftentimes these identities or beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, if you believe that saying no would hurt someone’s feelings, being unable to provide the full effort due to exhaustion from overcommitting would likely hurt him anyway. Take some time to reflect if there is a limiting belief or emotional wound that is causing you to overcommit to things.
Once you identify the limiting belief, write down all the evidence you have to prove the limiting belief and the evidence that disproves it.
13. Recognize Self Sabotage
Continuously overcommitting to things may be a form of self-sabotage that keeps you stuck in a stress addiction loop. The pattern of overcommitting stops you from moving toward your goals and dreams.
If you believe that you unconsciously sabotage yourself, meditate on the following questions:
- What would happen if I stopped overcommitting myself?
- What am I afraid will happen if I have the time and energy to achieve my goals?
- How can I better manage my time and energy?
14. Reduce Your Exposure to Ambivalent Friends
An ambivalent friend is someone commonly referred to as a “frenemy.” A person who is supportive and loving one day and highly critical and mean the next. You always feel the need to walk on eggshells with these people, and they leave you feeling downright exhausted.
Studies on ambivalent friends have been shown to harm our health, including feeling more stressed, needing more sick days, and a bigger drain on our emotional energy.
15. Prioritize Time for Rest
In today’s world, rest is the first thing we let go of to fit more tasks into our day. But we aren’t machines. Rest is a necessary component for better health and decision-making. Block out the time you need for regular rest before taking on additional commitments. This ensures that you can fully show up for the tasks you’ve determined are important to your goals, values, and ultimate success.
How To Stop Overcommitting Your Time And Energy
5 Key Takeaways
Overcommitting yourself is one of the fastest ways you can destroy your health, your success, and even your relationships and reputation. Implementing these tips into your life will help you refocus your commitments on the most important aspect of your life – YOU!
Featured photo credit: Nubelson Fernandes via unsplash.com
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