Do you feel constantly busy – and in demand? Are you the one person at work who everyone seems to ask when they need a favor? Do you have a host of family obligations – driving your kids all over town, helping your mom spring clean her house, cooking dinner for your household? And are you involved in voluntary groups who demand your time and attention?
None of these things are bad in themselves – but they can all add up to a frantic and hectic life where you never get time to enjoy each activity before you rush on to the next. They can sap your energy, and prevent you from going after your own goals.
If you need to cut down on your commitments, here’s how:
Are you over-committed? What would you dearly love to give up? Can you quit it? If not, can you renegotiate and do less of it? Or can you at least set a time limit so that you’ve got an escape in sight?
I’m a big fan of lists – they help you to organize your thoughts and to get some clarity. We often lead complicated lives, with a lot of different commitments in different areas, some of which are temporary, some ongoing.
Make a note of any which are only for a definite fixed time period (e.g. chairing a committee).
Circle any commitments which make you feel tired, dispirited, anxious, or put upon. Ask yourself if I could drop some of these commitments, which would I give up? You might have a whole host of reasons why you simply can’t give up something (despite hating it). The truth is, though, that it’s always possible to quit. You aren’t really that indispensable.
(After all, sorry to have to say this, but if you died suddenly ... people would carry on without you!)
So how do you get out of the things which you’re already committed to? And how do you avoid making the same mistakes with the new commitments that you take on? There are three ways, from least to most drastic:
If you’ve got a number of commitments which have no end in sight, can you set a limit on them? For example, if you’re the moderator of an online forum, you could explain that you’ll only do it for another six months, then you’ll stop.
In general, it’s a good idea to give an indication of how long you are prepared to do something for when you first take it on – especially if you aren’t sure how much you’ll enjoy it. If you agree to be secretary for the local gardening club, make it clear that you’ll only be doing it for a year. That sets people’s expectations from the start – and you can always agree to carry on if you do find that you love it.
If you’ve taken on something which you don’t really have the time or energy for, can you renegotiate? That might mean that you talk to your partner and explain that you’d like her/him to take on more responsibility for the children. It could mean agreeing with your brother that he’ll take your mom and dad out every other weekend, so that you get a break.
When you’re asked to take on something new, you might not have to agree to do the whole thing. For example, as secretary of the gardening club, you might be willing to take minutes and send out agendas, but you might not be prepared to handle publicity.
Finally ... it is perfectly possible to simply quit the things that you’re involved with. If something is becoming a big stress or time-consumer in your life, it might be best to simply bite the bullet and say “I quit.” People will almost certainly not be as shocked or upset by this as you might fear! You don’t even need to offer a reason – but if you feel that you do, you can say something like “I simply have too many other things going on in my life, and I’m not able to give this the time that it needs.”
Don’t be afraid to quit something before starting, either! This is the “just say no” principle. Sure, perhaps Mrs Jones thinks you’d be the perfect person to host the block party ... that doesn’t mean that you need to agree.