time management

The Art of Enough: How to Break the Cycle of Overwhelm and Overcommitment

March 4, 2024

Reading Time: 11 minutes

The Art of Enough: How to Break the Cycle of Overwhelm and Overcommitment

Overcommitment isn’t just about a hectic schedule or a never-ending to-do list – it’s a problem that can affect our well-being in profound ways. In this episode, I’m sharing short-term and long-term solutions to recognize and shut down the cycle of overcommitment and overwhelm.


In last week’s episode, we dove into five reasons why we often find ourselves overcommitted. If you tuned into that episode, then you know that being overcommitted, overwhelmed and pushed past your capacity isn’t a result of bad time management. 

Instead, it’s a bit deeper than that. To give a super quick recap, those five root causes for becoming overcommitted are:

  • Equating being needed with being worthy
  • Fear of missing out
  • Fear of damaging relationships
  • Being disorganized 
  • Fear of missing out on money

And here’s the thing, you may not be able to delegate every single task immediately, that’s why this is a long-term strategy. It’s not a silver bullet that’s going to fix your overcommitment and overwhelm in 15 minutes or less. But if you can take an inventory of how you’re spending your time, identify opportunities to delegate the tasks that aren’t in the “only you can do them” category, and then prioritize the impact of getting those tasks off your plate – you’re spending time today that helps you have more time in the future. Ya hear me? Delegation is work upfront, so you can have your life back later. Which is so much better than just continuing on the same hamster wheel of overcommitment and overwhelm indefinitely. 

We’re talking about: 

  • The hidden impacts of being overcommitted
  • How to stop the cycle of being chronically overloaded
  • Short-term solutions to help you survive a season of being overcommitted
  • Long-term options to prevent you from falling back into the overcommitment trap

The Consequences of Overwhelm

Let’s start by diving into the consequences of overcommitment and why it’s so crucial to address them head-on. 

You see, overcommitment isn’t just about having a hectic schedule. It goes much deeper, impacting our lives in profound ways.

“Let’s start with the most immediate casualty: our physical and mental health. When we’re constantly overcommitted, stress becomes a constant companion. This can lead to serious health issues like insomnia, anxiety, and even burnout. It’s like running a car engine at full throttle all the time; eventually, it’s going to overheat.

But the impact doesn’t stop there. Our relationships, both personal and professional, can suffer as well. When we’re stretched too thin, we may not be as present or available for our loved ones as we’d like to be. At work, the quality of our performance can start to wane. We’re there, but not really ‘there,’ if you know what I mean.

And speaking of quality, that brings us to another consequence: the deterioration of our work and overall life satisfaction. It’s hard to do anything well when you’re doing too much. Tasks that once brought joy can start to feel like burdens. What’s worse, in the hustle of meeting deadlines and ticking off to-do lists, we often lose sight of what we’re working for in the first place.

Lastly, let’s talk about the loss of personal time and the neglect of self-care. How many hobbies have we set aside? How many workouts have we skipped? Overcommitment means our time is always spoken for, leaving little room for the activities that nourish us.

These consequences paint a clear picture: overcommitment is a path that can lead us away from the very goals and values we’re trying to uphold. 

Short-Term Strategies to Survive a Season of Overcommitment

Now that we’ve explored the consequences of overcommitment, let’s talk about the strategies we often turn to first whenever we’re feeling overloaded. 

When the pressure mounts, our go-to responses are usually about efficiency and prioritization. We try to work faster, and we prioritize relentlessly and ruthlessly – often writing and rewriting our to-do lists to put out the next fire.

Work Faster

So let’s take a look at simply working faster. Working more efficiently is just a fancy way of saying that you’re trying to cram more tasks into already packed days.

To work more efficiently, you can use strategies like staying focused with The Pomodoro Method, using a Shiny Things List, cutting back on perfectionism or using technology to automate some of your processes to speed things up. When you’ve overcommitted, it just doesn’t make sense to leisurely and manually make your way through the things on your plate. But here’s the thing. Even efficiency has its limits. 

Prioritize ruthlessly

The second strategy we go for whenever we’re overcommitted is prioritization. Ruthless prioritization and urgency management. Which is a fancy way of saying “we put out fires, or fix the squeakiest wheel.” 

This strategy involves looking at our mountain of tasks and deciding which ones are truly urgent and important. This approach can be a lifesaver, helping us to focus on what really matters in the heat of the moment. What do we have to do first, what do we have to do right now. Which deadline is up next. What are our colleagues or clients asking us for next or right now? We’re constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the rushing flood waters of commitments. 

And let’s be real – this strategy – just like working quickly – is pretty necessary when you’re overcommitted. It’s the juggling act, the plate spinning, the treading water to continue getting things done when you’ve got more than you can handle. 

But here’s the thing – both working faster and prioritizing are like band-aids. 

They’re great for short-term relief, but they don’t address the underlying issue of overcommitment. At some point, you hit a threshold. Your efficiency maxes out, and prioritization alone can’t save you from the overwhelming feeling of having too much on your plate.

When the first two strategies start to max out, you’ve got to consider the next two short term strategies for overcommitment relief: communication and cutting your losses. 

Clear communication

First, clear communication. If you’re working as fast as you can, and prioritizing as effectively as possible, and it becomes clear that you’re not going to hit your agreed upon goals, or follow through as you’d hoped, or as you’d promised  –  It’s time to renegotiate deadlines and to be honest about what you can realistically handle.

Open communication can help in managing expectations – both yours and others’. Remember, it’s better to set realistic expectations than to overpromise and underdeliver.

Cut your losses

Finally, you’ve got to know when to cut your losses and walk away. What can you pause, or completely walk away from – Quit. It might sound drastic, but sometimes the best thing you can do is step back or let go of a commitment. It’s not a sign of failure; it’s a sign of wisdom. It’s about recognizing your limits and respecting them. 

I realize that quitting or pausing a commitment is a huge step that requires a lot of thought. You’ve got to weigh the potential risks and damage to the relationships, opportunities and financial commitments you’ve made.

At the end of the day, the most important asset you can protect is yourself. Your health, your mental health, your physical health and your well-being. Sometimes walking away from a commitment in this season is the best thing you can do for your future self, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment. 

I hate to think in combative terms, but it’s kind of like strategically losing a battle to win a war. Yes, you’re letting go, but you’re winning long-term because you’re preserving yourself along the way.  Famous football coach Vince Lombardi once said “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” And honestly, I think that’s ridiculous and even harmful. 

I Quit. No Regrets.

A few years ago, I was completely overcommitted. I was trying to build my business, I had a newborn, I was freelancing social media content creation and public relations for a few clients, and I was the Volunteer Chairman nonprofit Women’s Leadership Conference. I’ll cut to the chase and let you know that after months of struggling to make headway with planning and executing the first ever Women’s Leadership conference for this organization, I decided to walk away. I quit. I handed over the reins to the Chair-Elect and wished them the best. 

As a result, I was almost instantly a happier person. The amount of drama in my life decreased by nearly 75%, I got so much of my time back. I didn’t even REALIZE how much it was impacting my physical and mental health. And within a few weeks of quitting this obligation, I realized I had room to take on something else more meaningful – and within a few weeks I published the first episode of It’s About Time. 

You want to tell me that quitters never win? I say that if you’ve never quit something, you haven’t lived. If you’re holding onto something that weighs you down, impacts how you feel – because you don’t want to be seen as quitter? I’ll tell you that you have no idea what amazing things could be on the other side of quitting. And you won’t find out until you take that step. So – consider this your permission to quit something that isn’t serving you.  

Ok – these short-term strategies – are exactly that, short term. Working faster, prioritizing, renegotiating deadlines and quitting can bring immediate relief in a season of overcommitment. But they are just the first step. 

Long-Term Strategies to Address and Avoid Overcommitment

There’s a threshold to how much we can speed up and how many things we can juggle before we start dropping balls. That’s why it’s crucial to look at long-term solutions that address the root of the problem and lead to lasting change.

Know your “Enough” number

The first long-term anti-overcommitment strategy that I recommend to my clients who find themselves stuck on a hamster wheel of overcommitment – especially when that overcommitment comes in the form of taking on too many side gigs, jobs, clients, or financial-based opportunities – is calculating their “enough” number. 

This move is all about financial clarity – knowing how much you need to make to live comfortably and meet your obligations. 

How to Calculate Your “Enough” Number

To calculate your enough number, take an inventory of your current monthly expenses. You might need to print out some bank statements and do some categorization, or a program like YNAB or EveryDollar can make this process easier. I’ve used YNAB in the past, but I’ve been using EveryDollar for the past few years.

Then, once you’ve identified your monthly expenses, how much do you want to put toward savings goals, retirement, your kids’ college funds, investments – this is going to look different for all of us – and it also requires taking the step of actually setting financial goals to achieve. This is why this is a longer term strategy. It takes a bit more time, and I’ll be honest, it’s hard to carve out time to do this when you’re already overcommitted, but when you know your “enough” number – you have a very clear cut threshold for stopping. 

The thing is, we can always have more. In fact, that’s largely what our society wants us to want. More stuff, a bigger house, a nicer car, another boat, a second home, a more luxurious vacation, more, more, more! And don’t get me wrong – I love stuff too! And setting goals to have a bigger house, and a nicer car etc etc – those aren’t bad goals to have – but it’s when we let the pursuit of more take over our lives to the point that we can enjoy living that more becomes dangerous. 

When you have your “enough” number in mind, you have a line. And once you cross that line, you can stop taking on more freelance gigs, or more clients, or more overtime. You can just stop and actually enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Why Knowing Your “Enough” Number is So Important

On top of knowing when to stop, once you have this number in mind, it becomes easier to assess which commitments are essential and which ones you can let go of. Maybe knowing your “enough” number will be the exact thing that enables you to step down from that role, walk away from that stressful side gig, or fire that pain in the ass client – because you don’t need them. 

Your “enough” number is everything for preserving your boundaries and stopping the endless pursuit of more for the sake of more. 

Set personal and professional goals. 

Next, let’s talk about setting personal and professional goals. Having clear, defined goals acts like a compass, guiding your decisions about what to take on and what to pass on.  

When you align your commitments with your long-term goals, you’ll find it easier to say ‘no’ to things that don’t serve your bigger picture.

“Saying ‘no’ and managing FOMO – the fear of missing out – is a critical skill in preventing overcommitment. It requires a mindset shift, recognizing that not every opportunity is worth pursuing and that saying ‘no’ can actually open doors to more meaningful and aligned opportunities.

Every year I lead a goal setting workshop called Ready. Set. GOALS! On day two, we take our vision for the upcoming year and set SMART Goals – goals that are specific, measurable, attainable or adventurous, relevant and time-bound. That R – for relevant is key. It just doesn’t make sense to take on more projects and add more stuff to your life if it’s not truly relevant to your long-term vision, or your goals. 

I know it’s hard to say no to opportunities that come your way, but if an opportunity doesn’t align with your vision or your goals… then it’s not a good opportunity. And if you say yes to something that isn’t a good fit for your vision or your goals… that yes is taking up space that could be used for something truly amazing! 

Set yourself up for effective delegation. 

Finally, effective delegation and outsourcing are game-changers in managing overcommitment. But effective delegation doesn’t happen overnight, and the keyword here is “effective” delegation – because you can definitely delegate something that then blows up into an even bigger problem because you didn’t take the appropriate steps to set yourself and the person you’re delegating to – up for success. 

To effectively delegate, start by identifying tasks that can be handled by others. 

Delegation isn’t just about offloading work; it’s about making space for work that only you can do.

So what can only you do? If you really sit down and make a list, this list is going to be shorter than you think. 

And I get that delegating feels hard – that’s because to do it thoughtfully, you have to take your time. I feel like there are two common ways to delegate:

Option 1 – Hope for the best.

Ask someone to do something. Give them no directions, and just expect them to know how to do it. This is the method that most people use when they delegate, and then they get frustrated when the thing wasn’t done in the exact way that they wanted, even though they didn’t articulate what they wanted in the first place!

Delegating something with no clear instructions is exactly what makes people hate delegating, or think they’re bad at it, or think they’re the only person who can do what they do.

Newsflash my friend, if you delegate without crystal clear instructions and things don’t turn out exactly the way you hoped? That’s on you, not the other person. 

Option 2 – Give crystal clear instructions.

Identify the task you want to delegate. Capture the steps involved in completing the task – screen record a Loom video of yourself doing the task if it’s a computer thing. Write down the steps on a piece of paper or in a Word doc if that makes more sense.  Think about what questions someone might ask if they were doing this task for the first time. Make sure the answers to those questions are incorporated into the video or the doc you created. THEN delegate the task and share the instructions you captured on how to do that task. Make sure the person you’re delegating to is clear on what “done” or “success” looks like. 

That’s what truly effective delegation looks like. It’s not just throwing someone a task and expecting them to read your mind. And if you’re thinking – that sounds like a lot of work, I might as well just do the task myself. Ah… but then, you’re stuck. You’re stuck doing that task forever. You’re stuck doing something low-impact that someone else could be doing which is taking you away from spending time doing things only you can do. 

Kicking Overwhelm for GOOD is Long-Term Strategy

It comes down to this: Implementing these long-term strategies requires a shift in how we view our time, our work, and our lives. It’s moving from a reactive state, where we’re constantly trying to catch up, to a proactive stance, where we’re making deliberate choices about how we spend our time and energy. And as you make these changes, you’ll find yourself moving towards a life that’s not only more manageable but also more fulfilling and aligned with our true values. I mean, that sounds amazing, right? 

Implementing these changes isn’t just about reducing your workload; it’s about transforming your approach to work and life. It’s a journey from being reactive to becoming proactive, from feeling overwhelmed to feeling empowered. And no – this transformation won’t happen overnight – most things that are worthwhile take time – and every step you take is a step towards a more balanced, fulfilling life.

If you’re feeling overcommitted and overwhelmed, I encourage you to start small. Pick one or two strategies we discussed today and begin to integrate them into your life. Remember, change is a process, and every journey begins with a single step.

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