Are You Over-Committed?

In my conversations with clients, friends and colleagues, I find that many people are over-committed both at work and at home. They are having trouble finding enough time to get everything done that they have committed to. These same folks tend to have a strong sense of responsibility, wanting to do their very best in everything and help out whenever asked both in their jobs and in their family lives – meaning they often have difficulty saying “no.” This could be because they don’t want to disappoint others, seem unhelpful, or risk being “unlikeable.” If this sounds like you, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to avoid falling into the trap of saying “yes” to every request. The first question is “Am I really the best person to do this?” If the answer is “no” either because of your current workload or because the request does not align with your roles and goals, then you might suggest another person do it who is better suited for the task. The next question to ask yourself is “Do I have the time required to fulfill this task to my best ability?” If the answer is “no,” you have a couple of options beyond simply saying “no” to the request.

Many people think there are only two possible responses to a request: either yes or no. However, there are actually four available responses to any request: 1) accept, 2) decline, 3) counter-offer, and 4) promise to reply later.* Accepting the request is saying that you will do the task to the level of satisfaction requested within the required timeframe. Declining is simply saying that you will not do the task. A counter offer is saying what you will do instead of what was requested. An example of a counter offer would be saying “I can’t get you that report by the end of today, but I can get it to you by noon tomorrow.” A promise to reply is giving your answer at a later time, such as saying, “Let me check my calendar, and I’ll get back to you with a reply before noon today.”

Counter offers and promises to reply later are very effective methods of preventing over-commitment. They buy you time and give you the space to consider what you can realistically handle and add to your already full plate. This will help you feel more in control, reducing your stress level. It will also help ensure that you can fulfill what you take on to the best of your ability, which will increase your self-esteem because you will remain in integrity with yourself. Lastly, by consciously choosing what you will agree to do instead of saying “yes” to everything, you send the subconscious message to yourself that your needs are important and that ultimately you are important. We must take care of ourselves if we are to serve others to our best ability. We won’t be around for the long-term for our families, co-workers, and others if we don’t make taking care of ourselves a priority.

 “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” – Stephen R. Covey

“Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect.” – Brene Brown

*Leadership & the Art of Conversation – Conversation as a Management Tool by Kim H. Krisco

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