The inevitability of overcommitment
January 18, 2005
Every year, I toy with making a New Year’s resolution to stop biting off more than I can chew. I have this fantasy that somehow I’ll find a way to have a simpler, less stressful life where I never feel that constant sense of being behind in everything.
But this year, instead of making totally empty promises to stop overcommitting, I’m experimenting with the idea of trying to find the perfect amount of overcommitment. Like clearly you don’t want to be so stressed out that you can’t get anything done because you’re running from one project to the next trying to figure out which one delivers the biggest guilt charge. I’ve definitely been in that headspace where I was simply incapacitated by looming obligations (helloooooo, graduate school!). On the other hand… do I really want the stress-free life? I’ll sleep when I’m dead, you know? There’s way too much interesting stuff to do right now.
Purely by accident I discovered a decent way to figure out if I’ve got the right level of anxiety working. Once a month or so, I write down like 4 or 5 goals — and then I don’t look at them for awhile. Then I get all stressed and guilted out like usual. After some time has passed, I run across the goals in my notebook and realize I actually accomplished most of them — and a bunch of other stuff too. The knowledge of this helps keep me from panicking next time I take on too many tasks.