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The Yes Problem: The Underside of Overcommitting

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

I used to suffer from serious FOMO (fear of missing out). I would double book, sometimes I would triple book and believe I could make all the invites and events. For the most part, I did but there were other times I could not. There was not enough time or energy. Now I realize that overcommitting can lead to a lot of pain, pressure, and problems, both from my own and client experiences.

As we know, overcommitting is not limited to our social lives. It happens at work all the time. Sometimes it is a function of the download effect [1] at work combined with difficulty saying

no. Sometimes it is a function of thinking we can do it all, like myself when I thought I could be in three different places in a 5-hour span. That’s probably one reason why we say yes. The problem arises when it leads to health issues and harmful behaviour. A Families and Work Institute stat [2] says that 1 in 3 Americans overwork, and overworking - which I believe is a part of overcommitting- leads to a number of health issues such as sleep problems, diabetes, depression, inflammatory and cardiovascular disease. I find our work culture to be similar to our neighbours down South so I believe this stat applies to Canadians as well. Take one of my clients for instance; he came to me with a problematic habit due to the pressure he felt at work. He did not have the best boundaries and took a lot on; he now has impeccable boundaries and got rid of that pesky habit. He does not stress because he delegates and filters well.

If you tend to overcommit, here are a few things you can try:

  • Filter asks. What can you do that you alone can do? What do you want to do? Who can help you with the task if you say yes? Alternatively, what can you not do or don’t want to? Is it even necessary?

  • Add and subtract. If you are saying yes and taking something on, what is one thing that can be taken “off your plate?” Avoid the Tetris effect by making sure something is taken off before something is added on.

  • Buy time. Whether you say yes or no to something, you do not have to say it right away especially if it takes you time to process. If somebody asks you something (an ask), you can say, “I’ll have to think about it” and tell them a time you will get back to them. A pause between asks can be a game changer. If you take a project on, you can also buy time by proposing a realistic timeline as to when it will get done.

When I really think about it, I overcommitted because I wanted to fill all my time. Despite valuing showing up for friends and family and experiencing new things, I did not want pauses or empty moments to think about me. It was an escape just like any other. I was - as Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter say in their article, “Are You Addicted to Doing?” - an “action addict[3].” Similar to the latest studies that say that multitasking is not productive or effective as we might think, overcommitting in certain areas is under-committing and under-performing in others or even in the same areas. Am I really fully enjoying an event and giving it my undivided attention when I have two other places to be in less than two hours? Or am I going to cancel and therefore not commit? Commitment is important to me so now I am more careful of who and what I commit to. Is it important for you to do the same?

If you are an overcommitter, what is one of the suggestions I made that you can apply this week?


Ps. Need more tips? you can set up a Get Acquainted Call to see if I can help.

[1] The effect whereby more and more responsibilities are being asked or delegated upon someone at work

[2] Overwork in America: When the way we work becomes too much. Families and Work Institute. E Galinsky, JT Bond, SS Kim, L Backon, E Brownfield… - 2005

[3] “Are You Addicted to Doing?” Mindful, Mindful, 6 June 2018,

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