The Lure of Overcommitment (And How to Say No!)

We all know it—that siren call, that burning quest for glory, that treacherous golden hoard that only ever leaves you wanting more.


Especially at a place like Kenyon, where stress culture dominates, it’s really easy to get it way over your head.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been doing too much.  In high school, I felt like I was always dashing from one thing to the next, both because I was interested in too many things, and because the society I was in decreed that the more you do, the better.  It wasn’t as respectable to do one or two things and be really good at them.  You had to stack your résumé, because that’s what everyone saw and what got you into college.

Now that I’m in college, I tend to catch myself falling into the same pattern.  I’m in two a capella groups, I write for Her Campus, and I’m a double-major who’s over-enrolled in classes.  I auditioned for two shows even though I knew going in that I didn’t really have the time, and I’m auditing a dance class to force myself into getting a weekly workout.  And while these are all things that I love, it can often get to be too much.

So why do we choose to do this to ourselves?  As much as we might want to do everything, we can’t.  Unless you’re Hermione Granger and you have a handy time-turner, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.  I can promise you, from (copious) experience, that sacrificing sleep is NOT the way to go.



More importantly, I find that when I put too much on myself, I don’t do any of it to my full capabilities.  As much as I want to prioritize grades, I also want to be my best at rehearsals, but I can’t do that when I’m up until 3 am trying blearily to finish an assignment because I spent the afternoon working on a side project for a friend and the evening at a meeting.

See what I’m getting at here?

The only thing to do is create a balance.  Of everything in your life, figure out what is flexible and what isn’t, and plan accordingly.  If I know I have a crazy big assignment due one week, I can request an extension on my article.  If you’re still in over your head, figure out what’s really important, and what you can live without.  (Hint: think about what actually makes you happy.)  And getting sleep is really important.  Sleep is the only time your body can stop producing stress hormones, and it will keep you focused during the day and keep you from getting sick as much, or at least help you get over illness faster (since, let’s face it, college is a big cesspool of germs).



That being said, if you really want to do something, go for it!  If you find that it truly is important to you, you’ll find the time to do it.  It’s also advisable to have a set amount of “free” time so that if you do need to do something extra, like help a friend with a project or performance, you have enough space in your schedule to do so.  Just make sure you don’t burn yourself out in the process.  Leave some time for yourself, but also remember that having a social life separate from your commitments really helps you stay sane.

I’m not gonna lie—it can be really hard not to overcommit.  For me, it’s sort of like re-training my perception of what my life should look like.  I’m still too busy for my own good, and it’s a constant learning process in time management to try to get enough sleep during the week.  But I’m getting there, and it’s an important lesson for anyone to develop those productive habits of self-care.  After all, the only real way to be your best is to feel your best!


Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2