Back in college, I used to get in these moods where I felt totally and completely overwhelmed by all my schoolwork, commitments, jobs, and other obligations.  It happened most often around the time of finals or when I had a big project due, or when I was working on a major event for sorority.  I would long to curl up with a book I wanted to read, as opposed to whichever one I was supposed to reading, and to just do nothing for awhile.

In graduate school in particular, I distinctly remember thinking I could not wait until I finished my degree so I could just work.  I anticipated the days when I would do my job, then go home and do whatever I wanted to do, without worrying about research, classes, or exams.

For the most part, I really did enjoy all the free time I had after finishing school.  Jeremy and I were already married when I completed my master's degree, and I had recently moved into my current job, which was a lot slower-paced and with much more normal hours than my previous one had been.  It felt so good to just be able to relax and enjoy the evenings and weekends, without anything hanging over my head.  (And I remember SO many weekends early on in our marriage when we both slept until nearly lunchtime, then might take a long afternoon nap, accomplishing absolutely nothing for the day.  The beauty of being a young adult with few responsibilities, right?)

I have done well keeping my promise to myself to remember how stressed I get when I am over-committed, and I have kept a pretty low-key schedule for the most part.  Sure, there have been times when I got a little too busy with one thing or another, or we had weeks when it felt like every moment was packed full.  Once, just a few weeks after the girls were born, I was convinced I was going to have to give up teaching because I just couldn't handle it on top of managing newborns.  (See--that "do nothing but work" phase did not entirely last...within a year or so of beginning my current job, I also started teaching part time at a local community college.)  Naturally, I settled into the routine better after a few weeks, managed to finish the semester, and am still teaching today. 

In the last month or so, I have realized that I have been letting my commitments and obligations stack up again.  Addison & Mackenzie (and Jeremy!) are the first priority, as always, but I am also juggling my regular job, two online college courses (which I do still enjoy and plan to keep), serving on a local board, teaching Sunday School and working with youth at church, among other projects and everyday things.  I let a project fall through the cracks this month, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I really failed at something I said I would do.  It's not a good feeling at all.

Still, at least I am aware enough to realize why it happened and to put a stop to the underlying issue right now.  I am still the same type of person I have always been:  when my day is done, I want to retreat with a book or tv (or a sewing or craft project), and let everything else go.  I don't want to spend the hours between the girls' bedtime and my own working on something I don't even really want to be doing.  Some commitments bring me joy, for the most part--teaching my online classes, working with youth, blogging and reviewing books--but my plate is full with all those things.  For now, I need to face the fact that I can't add anything else, and focus on those activities I truly enjoy.

After all, I am an adult now; I get to pick and choose what I want to do with my time.  I have learned that I function best somewhere between a jam-packed schedule and a wide-open life of leisure, and I just have to move it back into balance at times.  I am getting back to being a little more picky about what I choose to do, and learning to say no a little more often. 

Do you ever feel over-obligated?  Have you learned your limits and when to say 'no'?  Do you like to be busy or have lots of free time, or somewhere in between like me?


  1. I've always always liked to have lots of things on the go but they need to all be self-directed. I don't like my time taken up by things others deem important like meetings for the sake of meetings...

    I am very good at saying no. I was Superwoman til 2003, got coaching and since then I've been saying no and loving it :)

    Should we do a day in the life? :)

  2. I like to be somewhere in between on the obligation scale. I had definitely let things get out of whack the last few years before the girls were born, from a work perspective. I hope, when I go back to work, that I'll be able to maintain better focus and not get back to that point. Surely I'll be able to, right...I'll have two girlies who'll need their mama outside of working hours!

    When I get overloaded, I do tend to bury my head in the sand on non-essential items. It's not necessarily healthy...but I tend to get the "must-do's" done and then try to forget about the rest for a few days. That's just not a good feeling, though, as it feels like I have things hanging over my head.

    I also have to be careful not to run-run-run and not "schedule" down-time...because I definitely hit a wall at some point!

    Great, reflective post! I think it's really important to step back and think about what we want for ourselves...it's too easy to get sucked into a vortex otherwise! :)

  3. With traveling half the year, I go from one extreme to the other! When we're at home, it's non-stop catching up with friends and family and doing things around the house! Then when we're out on the road... I have absolutely NOTHING to do! I can't even wash our own clothes (it's cheaper to use a wash and fold service!) I guess it's a nice comprimise though - I couldn't handle either situation for an entire year! LOL! (And thanks, Deanna, for the thoughts, prayers and sweet comments for my family and I over the last month! You're a great friend!!)

  4. One of the best things I've learned how to do as an adult (a real adult...not my 20-something adult-self), is how to say NO. You really have a lot on your plate and while it is admirable to be able to give so much, you may be taking from yourself in order to do so.

    I love saying NO. The guilt melts away and I am able to focus on what is really important.


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