Are You Overcommitted?

Are you wandering through the buffet of life piling heaps of goodies onto your plate?  How much more room do you have?  Are you going vertical now?  I learned a lesson recently that was a big eye-opener to me.  I simply have too much on my plate.  This causes stress, which causes illness, and also causes other systems to break down.  It can eventually lead to resentment, overwhelm, and possibly a tirade or two.

A couple of years ago when I was writing my cookbook, Vegan Family Favorites, I sent it out to someone prominent in the vegan world and asked her if she would give me an endorsement for my back cover.  She had done this for my first book, Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World, and I automatically assumed she’d be happy to give me another testimonial for my second book.  But she wrote back to me and said, “I’m sorry, Erin.  I’m overcommitted at the moment and won’t have time to give you an endorsement.”  I told her she could take 3 months to try out some of the recipes (she’s gotta eat right?) and then send me her endorsement but she replied again that she was overcommitted and must reluctantly say no.  I was very disappointed because I didn’t understand how she couldn’t have time.  And at the time I really didn’t understand what “overcommitted” meant.  I do now.

The last year of my life has been filled with enormous changes.  I started a new profession and shut down 2 of my other businesses.  I’m segueing out of a third business now.  I joined Toastmasters, serve as an officer of my club, and attend weekly meetings.  I joined the Nevada Holistic Chamber of Commerce.  And then there’s my Mastermind group.  I’ve got two active kids who need love, attention, food, baths, and shuttling to and fro.  I’ve got a busy husband who often needs my support when his plate gets full.  I’ve got a house to manage, errands to run, and my own personal needs to handle too.  We own two houses at the moment and I’m in charge of getting our old house sold.

On top of all the things I do for my family and myself I get a lot of requests from other people who need my help.  I get emails from people who are on the verge of suicide (maybe 3 a week), people who want a reduced fee reading so they can ask just one question (30 or so a week), people who want me to review their book, product or website (12 a week), people who want me to prove I’m really psychic and then they’ll sign up for a reading (10 a week), people who want me to send healing energy to their loved ones (5 a week), people I’ve responded to in the past who now want to have a lengthy conversation with me (5 a week), and the list goes on.  While I love and appreciate all the communication I get, it dawned on me recently that there just isn’t enough me to go around.  I can’t possibly help everyone who requests help from me.  And that’s hard for me, because I’m your go-to girl when it comes to giving.  I can’t stand knowing there are people out there who need my help and I can’t give it to them.  That’s when I realized I’ve become overcommitted.  And now I finally understand what my vegan friend meant when she turned me down for an endorsement.

So I’m learning to triage.  I’m sending a lot of private emailers to our forums for help.  I’m ignoring the skeptics who want proof that I’m really psychic (they get the delete key).  I’m referring people who need healing energy to Reiki friends I know.  People who want lengthy follow up conversations with me now get a busy signal.  People who want to kill themselves get referred to my blog entry, The Spiritual Consequences of Suicide.  People who want me to review something for them get the “I’m sorry, but I’m overcommitted at the moment and I’ll be unable to help you” speech.  And for those wanting a 5 minute, reduced-fee one question reading I respond with, “I’m sorry, it doesn’t work that way.  Opening up for just 1 question is a big waste of your guides’ energy and mine.”

Being overcommitted has caused me to take a closer look at everything currently on my plate.  I’ve been asking myself what’s most important and what I can do away with.  I realized that there are items from the “buffet” that I want to put on my plate, but there’s no room.  Instead of trying to cram everything I want onto my plate, I’ve realized I need to plan this more carefully.  I’ve also realized that even though I’ve already taken some items onto my plate, I don’t actually have to eat them if I know I want the space for something else.  So I’ve decided not to renew my membership in the Nevada Holistic Chamber of Commerce.  It’s a great group but I don’t have time to give it what it deserves.  I was invited to be part of a Lightworker Group and have reluctantly concluded that there are other things I want on my plate right now.  I’ll have to get to it later.  One area I actually want more of is Toastmasters.  I’ve got just 3 speeches left to obtain my Competent Communicator level and am trying to join Steve’s club, Powerhouse Pros, so I can learn more about professional speaking.  So I need to make room for that.  There are other projects I want to take on that I haven’t had time for so I’m working to make room on my plate for those projects too. 

What I’ve learned, though, is not to go vertical on that plate.  It’s important for your overall well being to be able to see some white showing through your plate.  So I’m sloughing off every project or request that isn’t in my top goals.  At first it felt like cutting off some of my limbs, but I’ve realized that pruning the tree is sometimes important to the well-being of the trunk and the roots. 

Are you overcommitted?  Are you staggering under the weight of your plate?  Are there things on your plate you added a long time ago that you feel committed to finishing?  Are those items really important to you right now?  Are there things you’ve been wanting to add to your plate that are very important to you but you never had room for them?  Make room.  Slough off anything that isn’t really important to you.  It’s not giving up, it’s moving forward proactively on what will give you biggest gains in your life.  Sometimes saying yes to something means saying no to something else. 

And learn this phrase, memorize it.  “I’m sorry, I’m overcommitted right now.  I’m unable to help you.”  Practice it so you’re ready when someone wants to put something on your plate.  You always have the option of helping someone in need, but respect your own plate and what’s on it.

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