How to… Avoid Over-Commitment

In Guidelines for Godly Commitment, point number 5 briefly addressed the importance of avoiding over-commitment. Because over-commitment seems to have reached epidemic proportions in so many lives, let’s now take some time to explore the topic in more detail by looking at 5 approaches for avoiding over-commitment.

Keep in mind that many of the same approaches for preventing will also reduce overload, the result of over-commitment.

5 Approaches for Avoiding Over-Commitment

  1. Make fewer commitments. Seems obvious, but we often need reminded that being committed is not necessarily about making commitments. In fact, making fewer commitments often allows for increased commitment.
  2. Get discernment through prayer and accountability. We are too often blinded by our own ambition. Be sure to have at least one second set of eyes to help determine whether or not to make or keep a commitment.
  3. Learn to manage your commitments. Sometimes this means getting help from those with more experience (Exodus 18:17-27), and sometimes it simply means taking a break (Mark 6:31). Learn what you need to do to keep your commitments in perspective.
  4. Find creative solutions for reducing current commitments. While no one likes to break a commitment, sometimes it’s necessary. Find ways to soften the blow such as replacing yourself, asking to be released, hiring something done, and fazing yourself out.
  5. Set priorities. Write them down and use them to guide future commitments as well as for periodic assessment.

Learn to Say “No.”

Saying “no” when necessary is key to avoiding over-commitment. Conversely, saying “yes” to too much creates overload.

I do not particularly enjoy saying “no,” especially because I often have to say it to people I love and want to help. I feel selfish almost every time, and I have to deliberately work through that. I do this usually by talking with my husband (my main accountability partner) about our current goals and areas of focus.

One of the most difficult aspects of saying “no” is that it means turning down some good opportunities. Yet, even though I struggle with saying “no,” I realize that doing so allows me to be more fully committed to the things I say “yes” to.

Remember Your “Why”

The following scripture found in 1 Peter 4 gives great insight into our motivation for commitments. Knowing your “why” provides tremendous motivation for freeing yourself from the weight of over-commitment.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (vv. 8-11)

In light of this scripture, consider that over-commitment can lead to damaging your integrity hurting relationships and your ability to spiritually, physically and mentally stay committed.

Also consider that in order to “love each other as if your life depended on it” you can’t already be over-committed, and in order to “be quick to give” you have to have space in your life to see the opportunity and not just see an obligation.

Next, consider that in order to “be generous” with “words” or “help” you have to know what God wants by asking & listening to Him often and by committing your ways to Him daily.

Finally,realize that  if you are too busy, distracted and over-committed, how can you truly have Him evident “in everything”?

DISCUSSION: What is your plan for avoiding or eliminating over-commitment in your life?

Want a great, Christian time-management resource? Check out Life of a Steward by Loren Pinilis.

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19 Replies to “How to… Avoid Over-Commitment”

  1. All great points Kari!! One thing I do think it helps to remember is that if you feel that you should say no then it leaves that opportunity for someone else to step in when they should say yes. If you said yes then that person would have never had that opportunity to step up. It also allows someone else to do a great job with whatever it was when you may not have been able to give it the time it deserved.

    1. Thanks, Mark. Your comment reminded me once of something someone said about not steeling other people's blessings. When we say "yes" to things that are not meant for us, or if we are unavailable because we are too busy and say "no" to the wrong things, we could essential steel another person's blessing. So important to be balanced and spending time with God to know what He wants and then to make sure we're available for Him to move in our lives. Need to have that space.

  2. These are all solid tips. I think one of the key tips that I employ is to take some time regularly to think about my current workload – whether I should take on more, whether I should take on less, if I need to rethink some of my priorities. It helps me to keep things in check regularly instead of waiting until something breaks down.

    1. Thanks, Loren. That truly means a lot coming from you, the person I consider my online expert for time management. Regular assessment absolutely is key in keeping over-commitment at bay. We definitely should build in those times, and hopefully our accountability people help us see things before something breaks down too.

  3. I'm reminded of a recent comment at a board meeting where our board discussed a fund-raising campaign for the non-profit we were serving. A member listed off all the various groups vying for donations right now. The list was substantial. I noted though that people gave to where they had their passions. Someone who connects with our particular story will give because he wants to be a part of what we're doing and envisioning. We're not supposed to say "yes" to every request but we find those places where the work lines up with our passion and vision. Then we can fully commit to the work. We can give of our gifts, abilities, and financial support to the cause for which we've been prepared. The hard part is to allow God's Spirit to lead us rather than guilt to push us into a commitment.

    1. Donations are a great example and a terrific way to understand this idea of saying "no." There simply is no way to give to every opportunity that comes your way. While I feel guilty whenever I pass up a bell-ringer by those red buckets, I know that I have other areas where I focus my giving. Knowing our why and truly being in tune with your focus is so important. I love your last point especially, "allow God's spirit to lead us rather than guilt to push us into a commitment." I think it hits on a majority of the reason so many people are over-committed and overloaded.

  4. I have to make lists! And I am learning to say NO. or maybe Not yet. WIthout lists I feel out of control. If I can check things off I feel like I am accomplishing things, even when I don’t see the list getting smaller. Thanks Kari. I love sharing your message with friends. Mary

    1. I use lists too, thought they have evolved over time and based on my current focus. Knowing we are getting things accomplished can be a great assessment tool to help us know we are making progress and don't need to take on more to feel like we are making a difference. Thank you for being so encouraging and sharing my posts. Means a lot to me!

    1. You cover some good points in your guest post. I like that you got at why we over-commit. Getting at the root cause is a so key to struggle to victory, and this is no exception. Stress is a good indicator too. And, we need to keep in mind that every person is different. We can all handle different amounts and types of stress. Another thought triggered by your comment has to do with striking a balance between being over-committed and not committed enough. Might have to further address that one.

      1. Yes to your last point. We're doing Andy Stanley's study on time/money management (Take it to the Limit) and one class member said he isn't overwhelmed; he isn't doing much of anything! And that's a different problem–one that I can't relate to. 🙂 If you write a post on it, I'll be sure to direct him to it. Thanks so much for reading my guest post!

        1. I have been thinking more about writing a post about the other extreme, since I am struggling to find that balance. My trend toward not taking on enough comes from a fear of not wanting to get too busy again. You're very welcome!

  5. Kari…practical points to remind us about prioritizing. There is a lot of busy work or should I say busyness that we endure in the business of life. One of my mentors once told me two bits of wisdom that I still use today: (1) There will be always more to do so get stressed out; (2) make a priority list at the start of every day with the progression from the most important to least on your list (whatever you do not get done, at least it will be the least important that carries over). I add that God helps us to prioritize by revealing what is important each day. Thanks Kari for reminding me.

    1. I need to be practical to remind myself on a regular basis. Always shocked when I get too busy again, as if I am not familiar with the situation. The two bits of wisdom from your mentor are great. Kind of reminds me of a quote I heard that went something like, "There will always be something in your inbox." We do need to let God lead us to prioritizing. That's the only way I've kept overload at bay.

      1. I live in a small town where most everyone has a laid back lifestyle, I only have one kid left at home and she's a self-directed homeschooler, I don't work, and I'm a lazy person by nature – it would be hard to get over-committed! My problem is the opposite – making myself work and not living an indulgent lifestyle.

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