After a long, relaxing summer, most of us are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things this autumn and settling into a routine once again.
But as we start mapping out our plans for the upcoming fall season, it’s easy for our schedules to start filling up—and fast. It can be tempting to try to fit everything in and agree to everything that comes our way. We say yes to volunteer work, yes to family activities, and yes to more work and responsibilities. But while there’s nothing wrong with raising your hand and volunteering for new and exciting opportunities, it’s important that we avoid falling into the overcommitment trap.
Communications coach Sue Johnston calls this the disease to please. “Lots of us are people-pleasers by nature,” says Johnston. We hate to turn down offers, invitations, and yes, requests for our time. But while there could be many factors driving this need to please, whether that’s a desire to avoid confrontation or to avoid disappointing others, it’s important to remember that our time is important and that we should guard it well.
It’s no secret that overcommitment can be a big source of stress! Packing our schedules full to the brim leaves little time for anything else, causes plenty of stress and pressure, and can lead to tremendous frustration. It’s also hard to find a work-life balance when we’re constantly rushing from one activity to the next.
But while overcommitting is something that can lead to burnout and disappointment, the good news is that your schedule is something that you have control over. Managing your time and being able to say no is essential—for your peace of mind and your ability to find a work-life balance.
With this in mind, here’s a look at some strategies that can help you to avoid over-committing this school year, allowing you to ensure that the things you commit to will enrich or benefit your life.
1. Identify Your Priorities
First, it’s important to step back and ask yourself what your priorities are. When you’re relaxing at the beach or unwinding after a long day, try to take a few minutes to consider what the most important things are to you and your family. By pinpointing what you value most, and what benefits your family the most, you’ll be able to see more clearly which things you’ll want to devote your time to.
2. Set Boundaries
Next, it’s vitally important to set boundaries. Things like only allowing one or two extra activities per child (or for you!), or keeping one night a week open for family dinners can help to set you and your family up for a good start this season. Decide what’s important to you and your family, and then work to make it a priority, carving out boundaries to help keep you on track.
3. Schedule in Downtime
During the busy season, downtime is tremendously important to you and your family –so make sure you pencil in time for it in your planner. Carving out some time each week to enjoy some downtime, get caught up, or simply be alone for a few minutes can make all the difference. Just remember, this time is important –and non-negotiable. It isn’t something you should just push aside as your schedule fills up. Instead, make a real effort to keep this time, just like you would any other appointment.
4. Create a “Someday” List
In his book Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, author David Allen recommends maintaining a “Someday/Maybe” list. With this list, you jot down things that you’d like to do someday –but can’t fit into your schedule today. Every time you’re thinking of taking on a new opportunity or getting your kids involved in a new activity, consider jotting it down, rather than committing to it right away. This will give you a chance to consider the opportunity and think about it, helping to alleviate the pressure to pursue it immediately.
5. Learn to Say No
Last but not least, it’s vitally important to be able to say no. No to more demands on your time, to opportunities that won’t easily fit into your schedule, and to things that you don’t feel would be beneficial to your life. Before you put it in your schedule, ask yourself if it lines up with the boundaries you have set or if it will help to enrich you or your family’s lives. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it, just say no thanks!
At the end of the summer season, it’s easy to feel tempted to rush full-tilt into fall, packing as many things into our schedules as we can. But it’s important to remember that finding a balance is important too. The best way to ensure that you and your family have an enjoyable and far less stressful fall is by working to create a balance. Say yes to the things that you enjoy and no to unnecessary or excessive demands on your time. You’ll be happier and far more at peace as a result.