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How I’m (trying) to stop overcommitting

I’ve become aware that I have a bit of a nasty habit of signing up for too many projects and then feeling overwhelmed. It’s particularly prone to happen after I’ve finished a project. The “a” is emphasized here because I rarely have a singular project going at once.

And yet, when I finish a project, I will often start more than one, sometimes as many as three to five projects, in its wake. Writing that out concretely, it seems extremely obvious that this could be an Issue in Handling One’s Life Situations and yet …

The last time I got very overwhelmed, I got a very helpful suggestion to “make a list” which I did, but this time with a little bit extra organization around it.

I made a spreadsheet.

So, I think this is at its core kinda funny. A thing about sharing something on the Web is you have no idea who’s going to read it and say “well, obviously! I’ve been organizing my overwhelmed feelings with Google Spreadsheets for years, come on!” and who else will read it and say “WOW that could be helpful, and I’ve never thought of that as a option.”

And here we are!

Making the list helped as far as “okay, I can see how I have committed myself to probably more than I should have, given contexts*, but I am a strong, independent acid snake and I can do this”

Woman in office setting telling man 'I am a strong, independent acid snake'
I love The Good Place and this is one of my favorite moments.

And I’m sharing here because it’s still helping! I even got Even More Nerdy about it and made a Gantt chart a month later, and recently extended it by a few months so that now I can plan projects ~6 months out. And if any of my not-work projects start being more than 6 month windows, I can work on extending it further (which could help me in some goals on working on longer projects!).

My current Gantt chart of projects in flight

In fact, I’m writing this (both as part of a goal to get writing more often) but as well because I’m going to spend some time doing some weekly planning about what my goals are for the week across the projects.

Most importantly, being organized in this way is REALLY helping me say “no”. Because I have a list! And a chart! and I currently, I am in the red zone (the chart is color coded so that I make months that I think will be more intense “red” so that I don’t plan other big things to happen the same month) and I should not take on the extra thing that someone asked me to join onto this month.

“No, but I really appreciate you thinking of me!” is my go-to phrase (and genuine — I get opportunities by people thinking of me, and it’s so lovely that it happens!). I wouldn’t say I’m bad at saying no, but the list and chart have been helpful for me being accountable to myself.

And now that I am looking to add to this chart today, and even add more axes about fitness goals, which could involve evolving the chart, TBD! But this is very helpful at the moment!


* “contexts” referring to a global pandemic and swimming in an anxiety ocean, the US elections, spending hours wondering if I am living in Hell and this is all an illusion.

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