What to do when you have overcommitted
How to (not) let everyone and yourself down all at once
Happy 2023, everyone! (is 2023 a real number? Seems made up to me. I don’t know. Suspicious.)
I hope your new year has been full of you kicking ass and taking names, left, right, center. If not, let’s start this week, okay?
Before I begin all of this, would you fill out a two-question survey for me?
So… maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation me: have totally and completely overcommitted. Too many projects. (hi coauthors. sorry.) Not enough time or energy. Feeling like I promised ten people and projects at least 50% of my time each. What the fuck? How did I get here? What do I do? How do I avoid burn out?
Here’s what I want to do: walk into the woods. Throw my phone in a lake. Find a hut. Meet yeti. Become yeti. Yeti aint got no projects or deadlines. (We all know this isn’t practical. I need a comfortable bed).
Here’s what you might want to do: work all the time. At nights. On weekends. Falling asleep. During meals. DO NOT DO THIS. You will produce subpar work and will burn out and will need to spend a month in fucking Italy to get over it.
Here’s what I will actually do to try to get through this:
Remember that having overcommitted is not the same thing as being overcommitted
Okay, Mirya. That’s fucking semantics. NO it isn’t. With a very few set of exceptions (your dissertation? The book you need to finish to get tenure?), we give out holds on our future time left and right and these are rarely binding. We get choices about which of our obligations we honor. What we often do, unfortunately, is treat all of the promises we have made as equal in weight. NO. Not everything in our lives is equally important and if we treat it all as such, we are going to spend our time doing a bunch of bullshit that does.not.matter
Do an inventory of my commitments so I actually know how overcommitted I am.
This includes all deadlines, things that I randomly promised to people, conferences, travel. ALL OF IT goes onto a single list. Maybe you will want to puke when you do this (yes, me too) but you CANNOT move forward until you know how deep in the fucking hole you currently are.
What of these things are flexible and which are not?
The old analogy is that we are all juggling, but some of the balls we are juggling are rubber and bounce if we drop them; some are glass and shatter. But what I want you to first figure out is which of your things you can drop and pick up later and which things you WANT to drop. These lets you consider whether there are projects and deadlines on your list that are really and actually fucking bullshit. Drop that shit.
Next, consider which items you can put down (rather than drop). After all, a glass ball set down softly and carefully can be picked up later, while one dropped from haste or because you just CANNOT will shatter. So set that shit down. This means – talking with your coauthors or colleagues about how you need some time. Telling an editor that you need another month for an R&R (yes, this happens all the time!). Telling your department chair that you won’t be able to do X thing. Be gentle with things that are important to you!
Be honest with your family, coauthors, colleagues, and friends.
Being behind is being an inconvenience. Being behind and lying about it is being an asshole. So – be real with people in your life. Especially those who actually care about you. Have an honest and hard conversation with people who might want something from you about when (and if) you will get something to them. Be vulnerable with those who care for you.
Stop saying yes to shit you hate.
I know. I say this all the time and then what do I do? I go and say yes to shit I hate!!! WTF Mirya!?! Maybe this is the reminder you need to NOT get yourself into this kind of situation again. I certainly need the reminder.
Make sure emergencies are actually emergencies
(and your deadlines are actually deadlines and you aren’t just creating a crisis for yourself to make yourself feel alive). Are you in a panic because neoliberal universities only function when they make us all feel precarious as fuck? Are you just creating panic for yourself because you don’t know how to work in anything other than an emergency situation? Well, cut that shit out. Find some healthier patterns. And stop responding to fabricated emergencies like there is a real fire.
Don’t compromise on the shit that actually matters:
Your health (mental, physical). Your relationships. Your life. Those are the commitments that actually matter. The rest of this shit is just a bunch of nerds cosplaying at being adults.
A reminder: I quit twitter! So find me being bored as shit on Mastodon. If you are still on Twitter (no judgment! Okay, a little judgment. I’m Mirya.), feel free to share this shit so other people can read it.
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