Between all the “domains” in our lives – jobs, social activities, family and volunteer work, we’re often left with no time for ourselves. We’ve said “yes” to everything and then discover that there are not enough hours in the day, days in the week or weeks in the year to accomplish all we’ve said, thought and believed we could do. A human trait is the desire to please. We want to be kind, helpful and liked. That’s all wonderful, but what about when you can’t say no?
Over-commitment is not only frustrating; it also takes a toll on your health. There are many studies regarding the effort-reward-imbalance (ERI). One in particular involving the effort-reward-imbalance (ERI) and over commitment (OC), noted in The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology said,
“Results suggested that all components of the ERI model – effort-reward-ratio, effort, reward and over-commitment – are associated with health-related quality of life, vital exhaustion, depression and quality of sleep.”
Considering that over-commitment actually harms our health, it’s time to decide what to do about it.
Here are some pointers:
1. It may seem obvious, but start practicing saying no.
But don’t start out trying to say no to others. Start out saying it to yourself. Say “no” to one small thing every day. When you hear yourself thinking, “okay, what ought I to be doing right now? I should load the washer and dryer.” Say, “No.” And take some time for yourself.
If you hear yourself say, “I could call all the people on the PTA (or church, or other volunteer commitment) phone tree to discuss that project,” on occasion say no. That project doesn’t urgently need attention right now.
2. Get in the habit of prioritizing commitments.
Attend to numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the list, and let the other items take their turn rising to the surface. If we don’t bother to distinguish the relevance or urgency of our commitments, they rush upon us like an unending tsunami. But they are not all the same. Sort them out, giving each one appropriate attention at the appropriate time.
3. Sit down with a paper calendar.
Calendars on electronic devices are fine, but to really “see” all of your commitments, and to get a clear picture of how much time each takes, you need to sit down with pencil and paper and a physical calendar. Make a list of the time required for each item. The estimated time sheet is the point at which you might be stunned to see how over-committed you actually
4. Now begin practicing saying “no” to others.
After studying the list you’ve just made, determine one area to cut back. Then call or email that person or organization and say, “I see by my calendar that I need to cut back on my commitment to you this week. I won’t be able to do ______________ for the _____________.” Fill in the blanks with your own over-committed activity.
Yes, you’ll likely encounter protests and disappointment. But like the song says, “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”