Do you get anxious thinking about your “to-do” list?
Do you constantly wonder how you’re going to possibly get everything done?
Are you exhausted, feeling it’s your job to take care of everyone and everything?
The other day I was talking to a group of women. Some had high power jobs, some worked part-time, and some not at all. There were single moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, grandmoms, and women whose children are older but are now taking care of their moms. Although their circumstances differed, one of the issues they all had in common was feeling overcommitted and overwhelmed. As they shared how they try to manage their lives, striving to find a sense of calm while juggling their obligations, tasks, and to-do lists, it became apparent that their tendency to multi-task was not only the source of their exhaustion but also a form self-sabotage. They all agreed that something needed to shift but questioned how. Below are three tips for overcoming overcommitment and overwhelm.
Tip #1: Define Your Top Two
I remember when I was first divorced and trying to navigate being a single mom, my career, daily life, and establishing some sort of social life. I felt an inner conflict if I was on my way to a date or some social engagement and one of my daughters called needing some support. I felt guilty if I was scheduled to teach a class on a night one of my children had a school play or sporting event. Although I might have been “achieving more,” I was enjoying less. I quickly came to the realization that:
1. Despite my belief that "I could or should be able do it all," I could not.
2. My attempts to “do it all” diluted my ability to show up powerfully for any one thing.
It became evident that that unless I became clear about my priorities and define my top two, I would continue to experience this churning inside of me
Taking the time to list out and rank our priorities gives us clarity. Defining our top two priorities provides guidance and makes our lives much less stressful. When we use our top two priorities as our true north and commit to making choices that are in alignment with them, our decisions become clear, choices become simple, and actions flow easily. Gone are the feelings agitation and frustration and all of the second-guessing.
Tip #2: Identify Your Structures For Success
Structure is another key ingredient in combatting overcommitment and overwhelm. As Debbie Ford wrote in her book The Best Year of Your Life, "Although the concept of structures may seem mundane, boring, and even stifling, structures are actually exciting, because they help us accomplish what we say we want to do...A solid structure is what provides the tangible steps to lead us clearly and inevitably to the life of our dreams." Creating realistic structures that are in alignment with our priorities supports us in managing our time, bolstering our energy and well-being, and augmenting our relaxation and joy. Not only do they aid us in turning our goals and dreams into reality but also they provide us with a sense a balance, peace, and freedom.
Tip #3: Unconceal What Drives You To Overcommit
If you listen to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed rattle off their list of commitments, it is easy to become exhausted just listening to the plethora of “active projects” and obligations on their plate. Without question, it is our tendency to overcommit that keeps us in a state of overwhelm.
So, what drives us to keep overcommitting even though we know our plate is full and feel like we can’t handle one more thing?
Our tendency to overcommit comes from a shadow. It comes from our need to:
prove that we are smart enough, worthy enough, or successful enough,
please others, or
obtain validation, approval, and applause from the outside world.
Yet, the problem is our tendency to overcommit is actually a form of self-sabotage. When we overcommit we generally spread ourselves too thin and tend to never finish any one thing, which leaves us feeling inadequate, incapable, or just plain bad about ourselves. Unconcealing your need to prove that you are superhuman, giving up your compulsion to do it all, being willing to disappoint others by saying "no," creating boundaries, defining priorities, giving yourself the luxury to focus on your priorities, having accountability, and creating solid structures will support you in getting off the treadmill of overcommitment and overwhelm and set you on the straight line to success!
Bottom line, when you define your priorities, you automatically become your top priority.
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Take time to look at your to-do list, “active projects,” and obligations. Make sure to look at all the different areas of your life: family, relationships, work, children, health, home, planning a trip or big event, etc.
(2) List out and rank your priorities. Be sure to define your top two and let them serve as your guiding light.
(3) Identify five to ten structures that you have or could add to your life that would make it run more smoothly and support you in achieving your priorities. Think of things like doing all of your grocery shopping and meal prep on Sunday, dedicating Thursday nights to extreme self-care, exercising daily, or having dinner with a friend once a week.
Don’t forget to add fun and relaxation onto your to-do list and into your schedule.