Overcommitment: Too Much on Our Plates

Ollie, the Overcommitted Otter

How full is your plate?

If you’re like me, your plate is heaped so full it rivals a hearty serving at a holiday dinner.

My metaphorical plate had become so full I was in danger of having dogs tailing me, waiting for the inevitable spill.

Overcommitment is one of Twelve Troublemakers that plague me as a writer. I’ve explored one a week. This is the last in the series.

In the past, I was obsessed with the idea of time management. I owned a full shelf of books on the topic, could recite Pareto’s Principle in my sleep (the 80-20 rule that says 80% of a person’s results come from 20% of the person’s efforts), and had lists of my lists.

As I’ve matured (sounds so much better than aged, doesn’t it?), I’ve learned some lessons that didn’t come from books.

Time management, while a valuable tool, doesn’t add more hours to our days, despite the claims of some of those well-meaning authors. While making good use of our time can increase what we can accomplish, we still have the same number of hours in a day we always did.

Maximizing what we can get done in the time available doesn’t mean we’re accomplishing what’s most important. We can check off items on our to-do lists, but if those we choose to complete aren’t in alignment with our goals, we can fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent. By responding to the most pressing tasks first, we can end up neglecting the most important.

Practicing time management doesn’t mean we have time for all the activities that interest us. Taking on too many commitments can limit our effectiveness. We won’t be able to devote the time needed to give our best effort when we’ve taken on too much.

Overcommitment can lead to stress. I faced this recently. The needle on my stressometer was in danger of being pinned. My real-life, romance-writing sister is an analyst by day. She gave me some great advice that’s helping me make better use of the time I have. I’ll pass on her sage counsel on Wednesday.

Your Thoughts . . . and a Drawing

Are you overcommitted?

Does one look at your to-do list cause your stomach to clench?

Do you work on the most important, or does the urgent claim your attention?

One person who leaves a comment by Sunday, May 1st will win the otter Folkmanis finger puppet pictured above, along with a small surprise. I’ll notify the winner on May 2nd and add the winner’s name here in this post as well.

Congratulations to Cynthia Herron, winner of the drawing.

Harry, the Hasty Hare from last Monday’s post goes to Julie Musil.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.
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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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18 Responses to Overcommitment: Too Much on Our Plates

  1. Sherrinda says:

    You are singing my song! Really, during this time of the year, life gets way too busy. The end of the school year brings tough days at work, and with a senior, there are many things on the agenda to get them graduated. I’m trying to still my heart and just breathe, because many of the things I have to do are mandatory. I don’t get the luxury of deleting them off my schedule! 🙂

    I have found that if I remind myself that God holds our tomorrows, then I have more of a peace. He is the one who gets me through my days when I am stressed.

  2. Wendy says:

    Believe it or not I’m actually okay right now. This doesn’t mean my house is clean 24/7 or that I have my hand in ten million activities (or my kids do). It just means for right now I’m sitting pretty. This will change…as all things do.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Keli,
    Overcommited is an understatement for me right now! Besides the fact that I have a day job that is super at the moment, I am taking care of 3 children, one of which has a broken arm right now. Let’s not forget cooking, cleaning, etc….

    My creative energy has been practically zero lately. I haven’t been able to write in over a week. In fact, I just blogged about this here:
    http://ellaschwartz.net/2011/04/i-am-not-superwoman/

    The reality is there is no such thing as superwoman. We need to accept that. There is a fixed number of hours in a day and there is nothing we can do about it.

    Did I mention the need for sleep?

  4. We posted on the same topic, except I am asking for advice and you’re giving great advice! I will be sure to come back Wednesday for some tips. 🙂

  5. Yeah, Keli, this is a topic I have trouble with. As writers, we have plenty on our “to do” list. Then add those to the “real life” list. Yikes!

    I recently had a frightening experience with what can happen when we overload our brain with stuff we are doing. It happens most to women because we can multi-task. It even has a name: fuzzy thinking. Pretty scary feeling when you cannot focus on any details of what you are doing until you take a breather.

    I can post a website here if any are interested.

  6. I’ve been exposed to those Time Management seminars. I agree with you that if we are over-committed, time management cannot truly solve our problem. It may enable us to juggle a little longer, but in the end, we will drop the balls. Thank you for another great post. Blessings to you, Keli…

  7. I can certainly identify with your post today, Keli. I had to smile as I read about your shelf-full of time management books, because I also have quite a few (along with my “get organized” books). 😉 But about 2 or 3 days ago, I read an article about this very subject, and the author (who I honestly cannot remember her/his name!) stated something to the effect of: The Lord is more concerned with the kind of person we are, rather than what we’re getting accomplished on our “to-do” lists. Wow! That really hit me, and was another reminder of how I need to spend my days. 🙂 Thank you again for all these wonderful posts—very worthwhile suggestions and thoughts. 🙂

  8. I’m SO overcommitted right now! I need to concentrate on finishing the first draft of my next book because my deadline is approaching. Eek! Time to get off the internet. 🙂

  9. Julie Nilson says:

    You’ve touched on my biggest obstacle in writing! Just not enough hours in the day.

  10. Sadly, yes, I fall into this as well. I keep thinking that once our oldest daughter leaves for university that time will open up to me. See, she’s the one that poses the highest needs, my other two are much more easy going. Now I’m fearing that I might let the house fall apart once she does move out–that wouldn’t be good at all!! maybe I shouldn’t let her move into residence after all!

  11. Beth Vogt says:

    I started 2011 realizing I had said yes to too many things. I’ve slowly backed away from commitments. The hardest one was stepping away from a critique group that I’d been involved in for almost 9 years. I knew I needed to transition out of the group for a variety of reasons, but dreaded doing so. Funny thing is, when I did, the group’s founder said she was glad I said something because she felt it was time for the group to disband because it had run its course.
    Now that I hadn’t expected!!

  12. I’ve been in an overcommitment rut for a while, but I think I’m easing my way out of it. Look forward to reading that advice on Wednesday!

  13. Answering that question now – I feel slightly overwhelmed (okay, take out the slightly and I’m telling the truth). One of the reasons why I handed in my resignation. I’m hoping I don’t feel so plate-filled after May.

  14. cynthiaherron says:

    Keli, I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to learn new meanings for the word “delegate.” I think overcommittment tends to be a “woman thing” anyway, and we sometimes forget that we just can’t be everywhere at once or be all things to all people. Thank you for addressing this subject!

  15. MaryC says:

    Definitely overcommitted. 😦
    In addition to teaching, I tutor 10 children. Ten! Because I can’t say no to the parent that looks so beseechingly. I’m avoiding returning a call to the eleventh because I don’t want to say no.
    That overcommittment doesn’t stress me generally because I love helping the children, but it does stress me in that I am too wiped to find energy to write.

  16. Thoroughly enjoyed this series, Keli! Overcommitment can be a show-stopper. Found myself identifying most readily with your point: “Maximizing what we can get done in the time available doesn’t mean we’re accomplishing what’s most important. We can check off items on our to-do lists, but if those we choose to complete aren’t in alignment with our goals, we can fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent.” Ouch! Can totally relate – in the rush to accomplish ‘things,’ I often succumb to some things that aren’t in alignment with my goals. Thanks for the reminder! Have a blessed week!

  17. Jeanne Takenaka says:

    I have been trying to tame my schedule for awhile. With young children at home, their schedules seem to trump mine. My husband encourages me to not become too overcommitted, but it’s tough. Probably the biggest time waster for me is time spent online. I’m working on that.
    Thanks for your thoughts and for the reality check! 🙂

  18. Keli Gwyn says:

    Yikes. I looked in my office closet, and what did I see? A cute little otter puppet looking back at me. I plumb forgot to find a home for the little fellow, and will hold the drawing at long last.

    OK. I’m done, and the winner is Cynthia Herron.

    Congratulations, Cynthia! I’ll be in touch.

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