Have you ever felt totally over committed? Like you’ve said “yes” to pretty much everything you want to do?
At first it’s okay because you feel like you can do it all.
Then, all of a sudden, you're in the midst of executing on all of those things, and it feels a little bit hairy and scary.
I’ve been in this exact situation when I spent a month in the U.S. criss-crossing the nation. I had business engagements in Arizona, a speaking opportunity in Florida, then I was back to Arizona for more speaking, and then back to a different city in Florida to attend a conference.
I finally arrived back home in the UK and had a quick one-day turnaround before taking the EuroStar to Paris for a conference where I'm moderating not just one, but two panels. It all seemed a bit much.
And after the conference, the following two weeks are filled with really awesome, fun workshops and talks that I'm giving.
What's wrong with this picture?
Well, actually, not that much is wrong with the picture because I LOVE doing all these things. Frankly, I'm honored that I'm chosen to do these things.
But what happened to me when I got off the overnight flight back from the last of my whirlwind engagements in U.S. is that I really didn’t feel well. I felt dizzy and had to lay down and take a long nap.
If you’re also in one of these careers or roles that you love, and it takes a lot of saying “yes” and being in “go, go, go” mode, then maybe part of you really loves that aspect. I know part of me does. Maybe too big a part of me!
Saying “no” doesn’t always feel like the right answer
We all know that we're supposed to learn to say “no” more frequently for our own good, which I’m still working on. But sometimes you have a lot of opportunities you want to say “yes” to and you think they’re going to really build for the future. This overcommitment can be really tough when you already have a job to do.
For example, let's say you're a surgeon, or you’re doing M&A deals. You can't just put the patient on hold, or say, “Oh, excuse me. I'm a little bit tired. I'm going to go and put this deal on hold.”
So, here's what you can do when you go into this phase or stage: I call it oscillating.
Recognize when you have overcommitted
Start to recognize that you're in a stage where you need to oscillate. When graphed, an oscillating line looks like a wave motion.
And so, if the horizontal line through the middle of the wave is the steady state, then we high achievers are going to overshoot the middle of the line and try to operate at higher energy levels as much as possible.
The thing is, being realistic, we've got to prepare ourselves to have a period of rest before we can go back up to higher levels. We can't just go up and stay up and go higher and higher and higher forever, because that will kill us.
Ask yourself, “How can I give myself an oscillation here? How can I give myself just a little bit of rest?”
For me, it was recognizing I couldn’t power through at that moment. So I laid down on my favorite nap couch and slept. That act of rest allowed me to resurrect and do some great work right after that.
Set yourself up for success ahead of time
Once you get a sense of when you feel overcommitted and need to oscillate, you can apply this knowledge to set yourself up for success ahead of time. You could even set up opportunities to oscillate days, weeks or even months in advance.
In my case, as I was looking at the agenda for the Paris conference, I saw that there was a cocktail party the night before and also an early breakfast the first morning of the event. Knowing that my energy was already low going into the conference, I decided not to go to the cocktail party. I also decided not to get up early to go to the breakfast.
Instead, I opted to take an oscillation rest period. For me, this meant having a quiet dinner with one of my colleagues, going to bed early, working out in the morning, and then heading into the panel that I'm moderating well-rested.
On a slightly larger scale, I also decided to cut my Paris trip short by a day to come home early, sleep in my own bed and have the whole weekend to recuperate.
So, when you find yourself in these situations feeling overcommitted, I encourage you to also find ways to oscillate, ways that you can just be ruthless about saying, “Okay, I now need to have that rest period. I need a little bit of hibernation.”
We're all a little bit like bears, only we don't have to hibernate seasonally. We have to do it when our bodies need the oscillation.
What are your best strategies for oscillating and giving yourself a bit of a break?
Leave me a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear.