What to do when you know you have taken on too much

We all realise that we have limits as to how much we can take on and what is an optimal work load for us. There are times however, for various reasons that we find ourselves in the situation where we know we have taken on too much.

With the benefit of hindsight we now know we shouldn’t have volunteered for that extra role at school or taken on that extra client at work for example, but the reality is we have, so what can we do about it?

I have found myself in this situation before, luckily it does happen less and less now as I am getting better at flexing my “no thank you” muscle, but here are some things I do, when I have taken on too much.

Is it temporary?

Firstly I assess if it is temporary. And by temporary I mean less than three months. If it is going to go on for longer than that then I am going to need to make some significant changes, but most of the time when we take on too much, it causes us a temporary issue. So if the answer is yes, I will work out when the work load will ease off and start visualising working towards that end date. I find simply knowing it has an end date, makes it easier to cope with.

Create effective to do lists

I have a weekly to do list process I follow, which you can see here- Create effective to do list, but when I am feeling overloaded I often will plan out a whole week, to make sure I get the key stuff done by the due date.

The below photo is of a master list that I made one Sunday evening, when I knew the week was going to have a lot on for me.

The next photo is where I have allocated three key tasks, work and personal, to each day of the week. It really helps me stay focus and work on the activities that will make the biggest difference.

Freeze the calendar

I put a freeze on the calendar adding no new non essential commitments even if they are sometime away. When you have a busy period, there can be a tendency to think that after it dies down you will have more time and you start booking in a stack of more commitments a few months down the track.

But when you have had a busy period, you need to have some white space in the calendar afterwards to recover! Also during times when you have over committed we often have to let go of some smaller things, that we may need to eventually catch up on (housework for instance!). By not continuing to book in more dates, you create space in your schedule to be able to complete them.

Set a reward

It is nice to have something to look forward at the end of it all when you are making your way through a very full to do list. A reward doesn’t have to be big, but just something that you really want to do. In the past for me it has been things like watch a documentary, visit a new cafe for a cup of tea or a sleep in!

I will set myself a mini goal, that if I can get through everything on to do list, like photographed above, then for example on the Saturday night I could watch the documentary (which I did and it was great!).

Go simple

With lots of commitments on, it is important to look at what can you simplify to make life easier for yourself. During times like this I will keep menu plans super simple and will often work off two menu plans full of easy to cook favourite meals the kids love and repeat them for the month. They will include meals like tacos, spag bol, stir fry etc.

Delegate what you can

I will look through my master list and see if there are any activities I can delegate to someone else in the family. I quite like doing the grocery shopping, but this is a task that I can delegate to my husband to help give me some more time if needed.

Involving the kids is something I will also do. We will chat about the situation in the family meeting and let them know I may be calling on them to do a bit extra to help around the house for the next week or two. The tasks I ask them to do are things like unstacking the dishwasher, folding the washing etc. With some advance notice and an explanation of why it is happening, while they aren’t necessarily jumping for joy with the additional workload, they do help out without complaint.

What do you do when you have you have over committed yourself?