Some of my clients struggle to set boundaries and regularly find themselves overcommitted, overwhelmed, resentful, and even angry at the choices they’ve made.
But despite their intentions to cut back, they find themselves overcommitting over and over again, and are unsure how to get out of the overcommitment trap. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Try this 4-step process to help you stop overcommitting and start setting better boundaries.
Get To Know Your Overcommitment
Before I teach you the steps, I would like you to do a brief exercise. Remember the last time you volunteered for something you later regretted. Bring yourself back to that moment. Remember the feeling you felt in your body and the thoughts going through your mind. If you are a visual person, you can even visualize the part of you that overcommits.
Whatever feels most poignant to you (thoughts, emotions, sensations, or visualization), memorize this. This will help you realize when you’re about to overcommit in future situations.
Then, pretend like you’re fast-forwarding through the situation. Imagine what happened going forward: did you end up stressed, frustrated, resentful, or angry? Did you take it out on others? Seeing the consequences can help motivate you to change.
A 4-Step Process To Stop Overcommitting and Set Better Boundaries
1. Recognize it. Whenever you are given the opportunity to say “yes” to something, recognize the part of you that wants to commit, using the anchor you chose above (visualization, sensation, etcetera). This will help you pause.
2. Never say “yes,” at least not immediately. Say something like, “this seems like a really neat opportunity. I want to make a conscious choice about it. Can I think about it?”
3. On your own, reflect on these questions:
-Do I want to do it?
-Do I need to do it?
-Am I the only one who can do it, or could someone else step in?
-Can I realistically handle this, given my current schedule? (make sure think how much time this opportunity could potentially take up).
4. Go back to the person and either say “yes” or respectfully decline, saying something like, “I’m thought about this opportunity, and unfortunately I don’t have the time or space in my schedule to devote the time it deserves. Maybe another time?” OR perhaps “This sounds like a neat opportunity, but I cannot add anything else to my plate right now. However, I know someone else who can help. Want me to give you their contact information?”
If you use these 4 steps, you will be much better able to set boundaries and stop overcommitting.
Sometimes, patterns of overcommitment can have deeper roots in people-pleasing, fear, or other behaviors that are difficult to shift. If you try these steps and find yourself continuing to overcommit, I am able to help.
I am a therapist for college students and young professionals in Saint Louis, MO, and a spiritual and personal growth coach for college students and young professionals worldwide.
Helping young people overcome overcommitment and set boundaries is one of the things I love helping people just like you to do. If you’d like my help with this issue, schedule a free 20-minute consult and we can get to know each other better.