Welcome back to Flawed yet Functional! This time of year always has me re-evaluating my commitments and priorities. School is in session again and all the things that my family and I are involved in are starting up again. It’s a great time of year to take stock of your commitment load and decide if you are overcommitted in any area. Click through to get your life back on track if you are feeling overwhelmed!
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When my son was a year old, I heard a speaker talk about the importance of saying “no” so that when the right opportunity comes up you have the time, energy, and ability to say “yes.” One of the books she referenced was The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. I read the book and quickly implemented it in my life.
Why? Well you see, I am chronically overcommitted. I am an overachiever who likes to be busy, and I can easily fill up every square inch of my life with things to do, projects to tackle, and friends to see. So as I share with you my strategies for conquering being overcommitted, know that I am a work in progress. I am not an expert at balance in my life. I like my life to be full to the brim (perhaps even a bit overflowing…)! So if you are a full-to-the-brim kind of person, let me share with you what has helped me.
The fall has become the best time of the year for me to re-evaluate the priorities in my life to see if my current commitments line up with them. Since my kids are in school, our life follows with the school year calendar for the most part. So while New Year’s resolutions are good and come at an okay time, re-evaluating in the fall is much better for me. September feels like a new start much more than January does.
Before we dive into the steps, I would recommend identifying your “New Year.” When would it be a good time for you to evaluate your commitments and priorities? Of course, today is a great day, but maybe schedule a time on your calendar in the future to revisit this topic of being overcommitted again.
Step 1: Where Do You Want to End Up?
First things first! Who do you want to be? Where do you want to end up in a year or five years? What are the goals in your life that you are trying to attain?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you need to take the time to set long-term goals so you know what your biggest priorities should be. Check out The Purposeful Day workbook for step-by-step guidance in setting long-term goals and breaking those goals into manageable pieces.
Once you know the goals you want to attain, then it will be easier to identify which responsibilities do or do not make forward progress toward that end. As Stephen Covey says in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” In order to know what should be on your plate today, you need to know where you want to be tomorrow. So that is your first step, figure out where you’re going. If you need help, The Purposeful Day is a good resource for this step. Purchase your copy today!
Step 2: What Are Your Current Responsibilities?
Now that you have a long-term trajectory mapped out, it will be easier to identify the activities and roles in your life right now that are important and will get you to that long-term goal. Conversely, the roles and activities that will not get you to that goal should stand out more easily.
Take a minute and jot down all the roles and responsibilities currently on your plate. On my list are things like wife, mother, teacher, friend, church nursery worker, blogger, small business owner, etc.
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Now rewrite that list with the roles that will line up with your long-term goals at the top and the roles that are least associated with your long-term goals at the bottom.
Step 3: What is Necessary and What is Not?
Now grab three colored pencils a green, a yellow, and an orange. We’re going to mark your roles and responsibilities in order of importance, and since color-coding makes things much more fun, we’re going to use colored pencils!
First up, grab your green colored pencil. Fill in the dot next to each role that is absolutely necessary. These are the roles that are either core to your being or are simply ones that you cannot disregard right now, like motherhood, you can’t just stop raising your kids! Ha!
Second, now take the yellow pencil and mark a yellow dot next to the rules that bring you joy and fulfillment and you would like to keep around yet aren’t as core to your being or maybe as necessary for you to attain your long-term goals.
Lastly, let’s use the orange pencil to make dots next to the roles and responsibilities that really could be done away with. You may end up still keeping some of these roles, but they are extraneous when evaluated against your mandatory responsibilities and the things that really get you to where you want to be in life.
Step 4: What Can You Get Rid Of?
And now for the hard part, you must actually decline some of the things that are loading up your plate that are not necessary. This is the hardest part and the one that will give you the most anxiety and heartache. But can I tell you honestly, that there is a freedom in letting go of responsibilities that should not be yours right now? You will feel a weight off your shoulders, possibly literally, when you eliminate a few things from your plate that do not fit your long-term goals or season of life.
Now I bet that the items with orange dots next to them are good things. They are responsibilities that help other people. They are necessary and needed things that perhaps someone important in your life has asked you to do. However, you are only one person and you can only do so much. Give yourself the freedom to get rid of the responsibilities that are not moving you forward long-term to the person you want to become.
You do not have to be all the things for all the people.
Step 5: How Can You Create Time for Your Important Roles?
Your schedule should be a little bit lighter and more clear now! Overcommitted? Not any more! There should be a little bit of breathing room in your life! I say “little” because if your proverbial plate was overfull like mine has been at times, declining a couple of responsibilities didn’t actually free up loads of time. Your plate was overflowing to begin with!
However, if that was not the case for you and you’ve got oodles of time on your hands, congratulations! This next step will be easier for you. If you are like me, with a still fairly full plate, just take the next step thoughtfully and carefully and do the best you can.
Use a weekly or monthly calendar and map out how you can accomplish each of these roles/responsibilities with the time that you have each day. (There’s a nice calendar printable in The Purposeful Day bundle!) It is really helpful for me to map out time slots that each of my roles fit into to see how doable or not doable my current load of responsibilities are.
Put Small Commitment Roles in Perspective
For example, I volunteer at my church twice a month in the nursery. I purposely chose a volunteering position that required no prep on my part. I simply do not have time to prepare a lesson for children’s church. However, in my mind, I can build up this responsibility as cumbersome when I get multiple email reminders a week. Yet when I map it out on my monthly calendar and realize that this role only requires three hours total a month, 1 1/2 hours the last two Sundays of the month. It takes purposeful thought to realize this opportunity is very manageable, and I need to keep this responsibility in perspective.
I use this volunteer position as an example because many people would choose not to serve in their local church due to the time commitment, but serving in the children’s ministry is one thing I feel called to do as a follower of Jesus. I want to be able to help the parents who desperately need some time to worship apart from their kids. It wasn’t that long ago, that I was in that desperate situation: a mama just needing an hour and a half a piece without a child clinging to them. I am happy to offer my help to that mom meeting Jesus the last two Sundays of the month.
Your Commitments are Yours and Your Alone
You may have roles that other people view as completely unnecessary, but your heart is what matters! What you feel called to do and have on your plate is for you and you alone. Use this exercise to create the confidence to keep or disregard the roles and responsibilities that meet your long-term needs and fulfill what God has called you to do. Do not feel guilty when you keep things that other people might disregard.
Step 6: Try It Out!
You’ve done it! You have figured out where you’re going, evaluated your current roles, eliminated the ones that were unnecessary, and created the time to accomplish all of the responsibilities that you have on your plate. You should no longer feel or be overcommitted! This is a great step that you have made!
Now for the last step of this process: you need to try it. You need to live with your decisions and responsibilities to see how they work.
The truth is, you may still have things on your plate that just don’t fit. You may have had some lingering guilt about a commitment so you didn’t eliminate it. It won’t be clear until you try it. Give yourself 2-4 weeks to see how everything shakes out.
I have found that when I have completed step 5, and I see the bigger picture of what I have committed to, I often find my life to be much less overwhelming. However, if after I work through my weeks and find that I still have too much on my plate, I go back to Step 3 to further eliminate unnecessary responsibilities.
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As women, we tend to take the world on our shoulders. While it may be true that the bulk of child-rearing and house management is our responsibility, there’s no need to drown ourselves in extracurricular activities just because we are asked to do them. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and overcommitted take some time today to evaluate where you’re at and where you would like to be. This is a great first step to becoming a healthier you!