The Trap of Overcommitting

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Someone asks you to serve on a committee, to spearhead a new initiative, or something along those lines. You pause to think about everything on your plate and that person goes in for the proverbial kill – “Oh, with your skill set, it won’t take up that much of your time” (flattery appeal) or my favorite, “You are our maxresdefault_3 last hope, no one else is willing or available to do it” (the sympathy plea). Before you know it, you have added yet another thing to your plate. Gotcha!

Do we forget that it’s a plate and not a buffet table? When this happens a couple of times a year, we find ourselves overcommitted and struggling to figure out how to carve out time for every commitment.

With overcommitment, we are physically present and giving what we think is our best (in actuality, it is our bare minimum). Too many of us are visible in action but absent of full presence. Despite physical visibility in activity, if our hearts are not all in, what good is it? There is a distinct difference between “doing” and “being;” we want to surpass merely “doing.” Overcommitting can lead to “doing”… along with increased stress, irritability, a decrease of quality in output, lack of happiness, lower productivity, and a negative perspective (attitude). This is a lose-lose situation for all parties involved.

Yes, we have great intentions, but there are two words we have to reintroduce into our vocabulary and life – BALANCE and NO. Those are not bad words when used in the proper context. Saying “not right now” is not indicative of a permanent no; who knows what may happen later. With the increase of hypertension and heart attacks among working adults (especially among African American women), we MUST free ourselves from the trap of overcommitting. There is too much at stake and risk – for ourselves and the people who love us. Often when our lives are out of balance, it is our personal lives that suffer and that is unacceptable (especially when it comes to our spouses, children, parents, families, and friends).


How do we not only escape the trap but also prevent ourselves from becoming trapped again? There is not a magical formula or product; it is an exercise in self-awareness and knowledge. Ask yourself: What are the most important things/people/organizations to me at this point in my life? Sounds too simple, huh? The foundation of that question rests on identifying your personal values and passions NOW (not what they were 10 years ago). Notice there is no mention of your gifts and talents because they do not necessarily point to your passions.

A recent song by Switchfoot has become a personal anthem of mine. The song simply states that life is short, I want to live it well. Someone, probably after many years of existing and not living, finally understood how to approach the time we have on earth. Quality not quantity! This approach will help free us from the trap. Life is meant to be meaningful, impactful and enjoyable, but if every moment of our day is scheduled, we exclude those things.

So today, not tomorrow, TODAY take some time to review your commitments and begin the task of balancing your life. And be prepared for those invitations and requests to add to your plate. Respectfully decline and stand firm on that decision. Trust me, you will be ever grateful you did!

Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we will be free at last…from overcommitting!


Submitted by: Jamila S. Maxie, LMI Assistant Director