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Why More Discipline Won't Help Your Overcommitment Woes


The dangers of overcommitment

In a quest for excellence (or simply achieving our objectives) it's all too easy to fall into the trap of overcommitment. As leaders, we're no strangers to the relentless demands of our roles, but knowing when we've reached our limit can be challenging. Instead, we often find ourselves struggling to navigate the blurry line between productivity and overcommitment. Despite our best efforts to delegate tasks and empower our teams, the daily responsibilities and constantly shifting targets can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin.

 

Even with all that pressure, you may really love what you do, excel at getting things done, maintain high standards, and lead effective teams. Your passion and drive, however, while inspiring, cannot prevent you from becoming increasingly stretched thin, physically drained, and shortchange your personal relationships.

 

What’s a busy leader to do then? While it's tempting to believe that more discipline and time management tools are the solution, the truth is, they're not.

 

The Illusion of More Discipline

As a leader, you're no stranger to discipline. You've honed your skills, streamlined processes, and pushed yourself to excel. But here's the catch: doubling down on discipline in the face of overcommitment often leads to burnout rather than breakthroughs. It's like trying to douse a wildfire with gasoline. The problem lies not in your lack of discipline, but in your approach to time management.

 

The Fallacy of Time Management Tools

You may be thinking, "But I have all the latest time management tools at my disposal!" While tools like calendars, planners, and productivity apps are undoubtedly helpful, they're only as effective as the mindset behind them. Simply adding more tools to your arsenal without addressing the root cause of overcommitment is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. It may provide temporary relief, but the underlying issue remains unresolved.

 

Shifting Your Mindset

So, what's the antidote to overcommitment? It starts with a fundamental shift in mindset. Instead of viewing time as an infinite resource to be squeezed dry, see it as a precious commodity to be invested wisely. Recognize that saying yes to an amazing new opportunity means saying no to something else—and if you are not careful that may be your own well-being and relationships. Embrace the power of intentional living, where every decision is aligned with your values, goals, and priorities.

 

The Power of a Time Audit

Before we can effectively manage our time, we must first understand how we're currently spending it. Enter the time audit—a simple yet powerful tool for gaining insight into our daily habits and routines. Take a week to track your activities, noting how much time you devote to work, personal pursuits, and relaxation. Be honest with yourself and resist the urge to judge or justify your actions. The goal isn't perfection, but rather honing your self-awareness.

 

Setting Intentions for the Day

Once armed with insights from your time audit, it's time to incorporate intention-setting into your morning routine. Instead of diving headfirst into your to-do list, take a few moments to reflect on how you want to be during the day. What qualities do you want to embody? How do you want to show up for yourself and others? Set intentions that align with your values and goals, whether it's presence, compassion, or focus. By starting the day with intention, you lay the foundation for a purposeful and fulfilling day ahead.

 

The Art of Saying No

We’ve all heard how important it is for leaders most especially to say no more than they say yes. Still, it seems to be the hardest word for a leader to say. In our quest to excel, it's easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to opportunities to learn, help out a team member, or connect with a prospect. And, on the surface, those are all wonderful actions to take. But as leaders committed to growth and impact, we must learn the art of saying no strategically. Before agreeing to a new commitment, ask yourself: Does this align with my top five goals and priorities? Will it move me closer to where I want to be? If the answer is no, politely decline and redirect your focus to what truly matters. Remember, every yes is a trade-off, so choose wisely.

 

Recognizing Signs of Overcommitment

Each of us operates at a different pace naturally, and it's essential to recognize when we've taken on too much. Signs of overcommitment may manifest as increased stress, exhaustion, or a feeling of being constantly overwhelmed. Pay attention to your body and mind—do you find yourself rushing from one task to the next, sacrificing sleep or self-care, or feeling irritable and impatient? These may be indicators that you've exceeded your capacity.

 

Defining Your Optimal Pace

To define your optimal pace, take a moment to reflect on what makes you feel most energized and fulfilled. Consider your natural rhythms and preferences—do you thrive on a fast-paced, action-packed schedule, or do you prefer a slower, more deliberate approach? Is your energy greater in the morning or the evening? Does your productivity soar in concert with others or working solo without distraction? Identify the activities and commitments that bring you joy and fulfillment, and prioritize them accordingly. Remember, it's not about doing more but about finding a pace that allows you to operate at your best.

 

Making Room for What Matters Most

Balancing the demands of leadership requires a delicate dance between ambition and self-awareness. By recognizing the signs of overcommitment, defining your optimal pace, and making room for what matters most, you can reclaim control of your time and lead with greater purpose and clarity. Remember, it's not about doing more but about doing what matters most. Trust yourself to find the balance that allows you to thrive both inside and outside of your leadership role.


While all these ideas can transform your time management into time mastery, and provide greater ease and fulfillment, don't be too hard on yourself if you try them and, like every other self help book or course you have tried, you make very little headway. That's where leadership coaching comes in. A coach helps you accelerate your learning, holds you accountable to new actions, and supports you as you navigate the inevitable curve balls life throws at you. If you are ready to really make the change in how you deal with your time and make it more effective, then reach out, and let's talk.

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