Optimize Your Life

Episode #39: Are You Taking On Too Much?

Show Notes:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to another podcast episode with me, Dr. Sharon Grossman. For those of you who are tuning in for the first time, a quick introduction: I’m a trained psychologist-turned-success coach. I’m also a burnout expert, an author, and a mother of 2. 

My biggest mission in life is to help high achievers optimize their lives. So if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or burned out — you are in the right place. Keep tuning in and you’ll learn all the reasons that got you to where you’re at and how to turn them around. 

Today we are going to tackle taking on too much. Recognize, this is different from someone else putting a ton on your plate. What we’re talking about here is when you voluntarily take too much on for yourself. And what I’m going to do is outline 5 potential mechanisms that have brought you to this place. So as I’m describing these, take some notes and see which of these fits for you. Then I’ll share with you how to cope with each one. You ready? Cool. Let’s dig in. 

Why do you take on too much? Here are the 5 reasons:

  1. Because you value responsibility and feel like by taking things on, you are doing what you should be doing
  2. Because normally you’re very impulsive and perhaps have dropped the ball so now you’re overcompensating
  3. Because you are focused on your end goals and want to drive yourself hard until you reach them
  4. Because you care about what other people think of you and you work in an environment where people give 110%
  5. Because you are a perfectionist and you don’t trust other people to do as good a job as you could do so you have to do it all yourself. 

Hopefully, you’ve identified the reason for you taking on too much. Now the question is: How do you cope with too many responsibilities?

If you identify with being responsible, ask yourself, “How can I be responsible in a balanced way?” I’m not asking you to change your identity. Maybe just to tweak how you go about meeting it. Because let’s face it – doing it this way doesn’t work. It’s what is leading you to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, stressed to the max, and maybe even burned out. 

What are you taking on? Sit down and write all the items down that are on your plate. Then sift through the items on the list and ask yourself, “Which of these things am I doing not because I want to but because I think I should?” This is an entry point to reducing your task load. Why do you think you should do these things that you don’t want to do? Who said you should do them? The answer here likely lies in reshaping your thinking about these items. Either you change the thought from “I should do this” to “I prefer to do this” or you change it from “I should do this” to “I shouldn’t do this” and then figure out whether someone else gets to do it or maybe you can live without it. 

Here’s a simple example. Imagine you work full time, have 2 kids, and household chores. So you’re working all week and finally when the weekend arrives, you have a bit more breathing room, but your relaxation time is limited because you’re spending a portion of that time cleaning your house. And maybe you’re doing that because you tell yourself you should. You can either tell yourself, “I like cleaning my house” which will feel a lot better because it’s a choice you’re deliberately making or you can tell yourself, “I prefer to hire someone else to clean my house so I can have some down time on the weekend.” Either way, you’ll feel better. 

Let’s look at how to cope with too many responsibilities that stem from overcompensation. In this case, you likely were out of balance in the opposite way initially where you weren’t very responsible. You felt bad about your behaviors and decided you’re going to do a 180. Let me tell you — this is never going to work. It’s like someone who binges on fast food and highly processed snacks and who’s consequently gained a bunch of weight saying, “I’m going on a diet. I’m not going to eat any of these things anymore. No more sugar until I lose 50 pounds.” We all know how that story ends. You break your promise to yourself which only leads you to feeling badly about yourself and believing that you’re incapable. 

What do you say we skip the emotional rollercoaster? Instead, let’s aim for a more balanced approach to begin with. If you’re someone who tends to be more impulsive, consider what’s worked and what hasn’t worked when you review your past behaviors. Get some insight into what you can be more impulsive with and what you need to plan ahead for. What responsibilities do you actually have and how can you be reliable when it comes to these essentials? Give yourself space for improvisation, making last-minute decisions and the link with items that aren’t as important like your vacations or weekends. 

Moving on. Maybe you’ve taken on too much because you are determined to reach your goals. I can totally appreciate the sentiment here and I believe that for small spurts of your life, you can handle this approach. Sometimes life calls for that kind of energy. It’s just not sustainable if you’re doing it on the regular. So make sure that if you’re hyperactive because you want to make strides toward your goals that you do so for a limited time. And even while you’re doing this, do it as much as possible with balance. That means getting adequate sleep, eating healthy foods, hydrating, spending time in nature, exercising. You know what you need to do. Make sure to bake that in. 

Next, we have people who take on too much because of perception. Maybe it’s not really your personality to work this hard but you feel the peer pressure to do it like everyone else around you. I believe you have to be sensitive to your environment and others’ expectations. But ultimately, know this. Studies have shown that productivity goes down after 55 hours per week. So don’t be fooled. Those who are putting in 70 hours are getting the same amount of work done as those who put in 55 hours. It’s all about how to work smarter, not harder. And if you want to learn more about this, check out my book, The 7E Solution to Burnout.. The 6th E solution is Effort and I talk all about this aspect in that section of the book. 

Finally, if you’re taking on more than you can chew because you want to control every aspect of the job, I get it. But is that really working for you? These unrelenting standards can for sure bring on burnout. So be forewarned. You want to adjust expectations. Is it really true that others can’t do a quality job? How much of your decision-making about who does what is about ego? I mean, if others do a good job but do it differently from how you might have done it, can you live with that? Consider the alternative and you’ll see that trying to hoard all the tasks for yourself is disastrous and paradoxically often leads not only to overwhelm and burnout but to procrastination which is sabotage. 

So there you have it: The 5 reasons you might be taking on too many responsibilities: Identity, overcompensation, being narrowly goal-focused, perception, and perfectionism. 

And how to cope with each of these. 

I hope this has given you food for thought. Now it’s all about taking action. I challenge you to identify which of these 5 reasons applies to you and then take the appropriate action to rectify the situation. 

And if you want me to coach you on this, sign up for a complimentary consultation. Go to www.bookachatwithsharon.com

I’ll see you next week. Stay balanced meanwhile. 

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