When we were in high school we used to pass notes in class. Remember those? That was well before texting took over.
Sometimes we made it interesting by doing origami-stunts with our notes, writing in the backs of novels we traded back and forth, or once in awhile, we made it our goal to fill in every white space on a piece of notebook paper. We’d write from top to bottom, all the way left to right ignoring the red vertical line down the side of the page. We’d write around the three holes punched and we’d fill it all in with our fifteen-year-old thoughts.
I always think about these notes when I begin to feel like I’m over-committed. I feel like my life (a little like it is right now) is like that side-to-side notebook paper. I’ve filled in all available spaces with things to do, things to write and things to complete.
The fact is that everyone needs clear, free margins in their lives. My problem is that I’m a work-at-home mother, and so there are no clear boundaries between work and rest or between responsibility and play. I gladly fill in all my margins with stuff and when I run out of room, I try to cram more stuff in.
School volunteering, driving for the field trips, volunteering for the potluck at church, organizing the fundraiser, exercising, leading a table at the mom’s group, helping drive carpool, writing blog posts for other people’s blogs, and not to mention, doing the work that we do have that really does pay money. Fill in your own blanks; many of us over-commit ourselves.
When we fill in our margins, we have no time to relax, to think, to be creative or to dream. All we do is DO and we don’t have any time to BE. And we certainly don’t have any time to just rest.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to begin to evaluate if you are over-committed. Chances are, if you are obligated to too much, you already know it.
1. Do I have any time built in to my life to rest?
Ask yourself, do I have any weekly or daily time built into my schedule to break away from commitments and let my brain, body and heart rest? Is my life so filled in that there is no time for that at all?
2. When I am resting am I thinking about other things?
Sometimes when I’m taking a break my mind is racing about all the things I have to do when I’m done “resting.” My nap is interrupted by my own brain. When I can’t really take a break and be present in my Sabbath, I know I’m doing too much.
3. Do I have trouble saying “no” when someone asks me to do that one extra thing?
Sometimes we are women who can’t say “no.” And if we are people-pleasers then it’s even worse for us. We don’t like to disappoint others and say “no.” If you are a “yes” girl, you might be doing too much.
4. Does being a part of things make me feel valuable?
This is me. When someone asks me to do something or when I see a need, sometimes the basest part of me wants to be a part just so I can feel valued. It makes me feel better when I’m on leadership for something or I have access to All The Things because I was at the meeting.
5. Do I know myself well enough to make accurate evaluations about my time?
I admit, I struggle here. I want to help and do and be a part so much that I think, “I can do this. I have time.” But I really don’t. At times it takes my husband or my kids to notice that I’m too busy because I don’t have an accurate gauge myself.
If you do find yourself in a place of over-commitment, first think about beginning to practice the word “No” to any new commitments. Then evaluate what you have said “yes” to and see if there is anything you can gracefully and humbly step away from. Consider your emotional and spiritual health in this and prayerfully consider if there are any other people that can step up and fill the void you might be leaving.
Keep white space in your life. Keep your margins clear if you can. And by all means, try to schedule in time for Sabbath.
What about you? Are you over-committed? Do you have trouble saying no?