You know I like to maintain a simple life in terms of schedules. I’ve shared with you our barometer for a too busy life, but that focused mostly on evenings and family events.
Another nuance of the busy life is over-commitment. This is often a little harder to manage, because the things we are doing are often very good. You may volunteer for something at church, or have another mom over for coffee, or make a meal for someone. Those are all really good things, but when you add them to play dates, and children’s school schedules, and, well, basic cleaning and cooking and it quickly falls into a too rushed life.
Being that it is October, I thought this would be a good reminder mainly for me. You all can listen in! I am well aware that these months leading up to the new year can quickly pile up with commitments if we are not careful. So here’s a friendly reminder to keep the calendar in check!
1. Know Your Priorities
I think it is important that we verbalize priorities, even in terms of relationships. This doesn’t mean we are going to be unkind to someone or that we think lesser of them, but we have to set priorities. We can’t be all things to all men. And when we try, we usually fail everyone. Family, church, neighbors/community, friends, etc. Be specific about which of these relationships are going to take priority in your life.
Often times we let ourselves get over-committed with things we don’t even care about simply because we haven’t stopped to verbalize which people/events are going to take priority. Talk it over with your spouse if you are married, and make sure you are on the same page. Your spouse can be your biggest ally in reaffirming your decisions when you both know exactly where the priorities are.
2. Know Your Threshold
I’m not talking about a threshold of, “I like to get with someone.” I usually always like to get together with people. I’m talking about knowing when things are going to start falling apart at home, dinners are going to end up being drive-thru, the house is going to be a wreck, the kids are going to be bouncing off the walls, etc. Know your limits.
There is no shame in saying no to something simply because it would be adding to much to your life right now. It might even be something you are great at. Again, check back on your priorities and make sure you are doing the things that you really need and want to be doing. Having a basic number of how many things you can handle in any given week is helpful.
3. Create Margin to Allow for Unplanned Opportunities
I’ve been in the position of wanting to jump in and get involved in a last minute need or opportunity only to realize that I had completely over extended myself with previous commitments. And the worst part is when those previous commitments are not nearly as meaningful as that last minute opportunity would have been.
Obviously, we can’t know our future and we can’t predict those last minute things. But, very often, even stressful last minute things are much less stressful if we had planned for the unexpected.
I like to call it margin. I use margin all the time. If I know it takes me 10 minutes to get out the apartment door to our car with 3 kids, I allow 15. You plan for the unplanned. To make this very simple and not require any math, if your threshold is 2 commitments on any given week, than only regularly plan 1.
Yes, I’m oversimplifying here, but you get the idea. Know your number for when things start to completely unravel for you, and then only regularly plan less than that. Don’t plan for that exact amount or the unexpected will unravel you.
4. “I’ll Get Back With You.”
As a general rule, it is best to not answer right in the moment. “Can you help with this?” “Let me get back with you.” That isn’t to sound all busy-like and as if you don’t care. But it is very hard to assess objectively if this commitment lies within your priorities, will not put you over the limit of what you can legitimately handle, and will still allow for margin, when the person is staring you in the face waiting for an answer. I mean, maybe it is just my people-pleasing self, but I find that really difficult.
If it is a true emergency you obviously just jump in and do what needs to be done. But I am assuming in that case you wouldn’t have any trouble canceling other commitments to allow for the emergency. When it comes to everything else, a good rule of thumb is to never make the decision on the spur of the moment.
What do you do to make sure you don’t over commit?