zen habits : breathe

A New Approach for When You Realize You’re Overcommitted & Overloaded

By Leo Babauta

Many of us are pretty busy, not only with a full plate in front of us, but constantly piling more and more onto the already overfull plate.

What’s going on here? Why are we so overloaded? And how do we start to deal with this constant problem?

If you’re like me, you have a habit of starting new commitments, new projects, new challenges, new books, new programs … and then halfway into it, you realize you already had too much to do, and what were you thinking anyway?

At this point, my usual approach is to start to simplify — I realize I’ve taken on too much, and then I start to cancel commitments. I tell people I just can’t do what I said I’d do, which feels pretty bad (to let people down) but it’s also a huge relief to let go of a burden.

I’ve come to realize this is a pattern of mine. And it’s not serving me.

Taking on too much, and then quitting commitments and projects … it leads to:

  1. Not being trustable, because people can’t count on you.
  2. Not being good at finishing things.
  3. Getting out when things are uncomfortable and difficult — just when you should be going deeper.

So I’ve decided to try a different approach.

In this approach, I don’t quit. I stay in the discomfort.

In this new approach, I don’t rationalize why I’m not doing it. I recommit myself and make a stronger, more iron-willed commitment. I make the space. I make it happen.

I might simplify other areas, but not the ones where I’ve made a commitment. I might renegotiate when I do the commitment, so that I can make the room to make it happen, but I don’t bail.

In this new approach, I also learn to press the Pause button before I make new commitments. I hesitate before taking on something new, and evaluate whether I really have the space for it. I make myself wait a bit, like a cooling off period before you’re allowed to buy a gun.

In this new approach, I learn to recognize the excuse that I’m too busy to do something that’s important to me. If it’s important, I can make it happen. If I have too many other things … I just need to create structure so that I can make time for what matters. And drop the things that really don’t matter.

If I’m making excuses, I need to call myself on it.

If I’m overloading myself, it’s because I don’t have the courage to say no before I take something on.

If I feel overwhelmed, I need to let myself feel overwhelmed. And then make the time to get my most important mission done.

So this is the approach, boiled down:

  1. Recognize when I’m justifying not doing something important, and stop buying the excuse. Make the space, create structure and make it happen.
  2. Recognize when I’m about to quit doing something important that I’ve committed to, because I’m feeling too busy. Make the space and structure for it.
  3. Recognize when I’m about to give up because something is uncomfortable. Push into the discomfort and go deeper.
  4. Pause before taking on new things. I don’t have room for new things right now.
  5. Instead, become a finisher.
  6. Deal with feelings of overwhelm by creating space for silence, meditation, and wide open freedom in my consciousness.

Become a man who has the iron will to finish his important commitments. Life is too short to be wavering.



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