Do you have a hard time telling someone no when they ask you to do something? Do you tend to overcommit yourself on a regular basis? What affect does this over-commitment have on your life?
Remember being a student and studying the night before a final only to have a friend ask you to go out and party instead? If you did go out to party how did it make you feel? Were you relaxed and able to let loose? Or was your mind keeping you uptight because you knew you should be back at home studying? When we over-book our schedules it can cause us undue stress and anxiety.
There are other ways that we can over-book ourselves too; we can work multiple jobs, have too many friends, or even volunteer for too many charitable causes. When we overcommit we can find ourselves in a situation where we literally have no time to for important life activities like; eating well, exercising, paying bills, cleaning our home, etc. The avoidance of these critical activities can lead to anxiety, stress, worry, fear, and even degrading health.
There are lots of reason why we tend to overbook ourselves:
- Avoidance – there is something that we don’t want to deal with so instead we overbook ourselves to be too busy to deal with it
- Competitiveness – internally we want to compete and whenever we are asked to do something we see it as a challenge that we can’t back down from
- Emotional – we are lonely and being surrounded by others makes us feel better
- Laziness – similar to avoidance in that we use the commitment as an excuse not to do something (e.g. If I hang out with my friends I won’t have to mow the grass this afternoon)
- Peer pressure – we want to look cool in front of our friends, so we can’t say no
I have been guilty of overbooking myself for all these reasons at one time or another in my life. When I first started my business I couldn’t say no. I found myself speaking all over town for free, mentoring numerous people looking to make the entrepreneurial leap, and serving on multiple boards of non-profit organizations. It felt great to be in such high demand and people just kept asking me to do more. Unfortunately I had so many balls in the air that I started to drop some of them. I couldn’t keep up and I started letting people down. Not being able to meet my commitments due to my over-booking caused me to let other people down and it felt horrible.
How can we avoid overbooking ourselves? It’s actually quite simple in concept, but hard to do in execution. We have to learn to say “NO!” When a friend or family member asks you do to something and you know you are
already committed say “NO!” When you are volunteering and you are asked to take on an additional responsibilities say “NO!” Even when your plate is full at work and your boss asks you to take on an additional assignment say “NO!” It will be very hard at first, because it feels awkward. However, as you say no more often it will become easier and easier. In fact you might eventually enjoy saying no.
The benefits of learning to say no are immediate. You will find that you are only doing the things that you truly want to do and that you can give your full attention to. You will find that you have time for yourself and the important activities in life. You will find that you are less stressed and generally happier. The important people in your life will be happier as well, because you will have more to give them. There is a saying in Lean, “In order to do more, do less”. This is counter-intuitive but very true.
I challenge you to evaluate what commitments in your life are truly adding value. If you find something that isn’t then stop doing it. Next time you are asked to do something you know will be a distraction say “NO!” You might just find this practice liberating.
Tell us what you said no recently in the comments section below.