Avoid the Perils of Over Committment

There are too many activities available for both you and your family. Between work, networking events, training, school, baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse, dance, gymnastics, scout meetings, household responsibilities, and family commitments-today's children and parents are bombarded with activities and responsibilities.

When you and your family are involved in too many activities, eventually, everyone gets burned out and quality family time suffers. When it seems like you, your spouse and your children are all going in opposite directions, you need a system for keeping it all together and setting limits. With solid scheduling and continued communication, you and your spouse needn't ever experience that last-minute panic over who's expected to take whom where and when, or the stress of over-commitment.

Most importantly, you must be aware of when enough is enough for you and your children. Be alert for signs of burnout like disinterest, anger, aggression, sadness, fatigue, frequent dawdling, complaints and whining, steady poor performance or over-achievement, bitterness, and high or increasing levels of anxiety or stress. Also, monitor your child's ability to manage schoolwork levels and use that information when determining whether or not to schedule another activity. Specific warning signs vary and depend on the developmental level of each child. Therefore, it's important to know and recognize your child's particular behavior patterns and set limits based on their threshold for stress and your finances, time and values.

Parents who have a difficult time setting their own limits are terrible role models for their children. Begin making choices and committing yourself to fewer activities and responsibilities. Don't take on more than you can handle effectively. Be sure to watch for conflicting deadlines and too many priorities. When there's too much, it's time to step back and re-group. Consciously choose how you will use your precious commodities of time, energy, and money. Nothing is really unlimited. If you come from a place of abundance rather than scarcity, you can turn down opportunities without fear that there won't be others. The right opportunities (those that meet your criteria) are available, especially if you don't get so busy with the other opportunities that there's no time left for the right ones.

Many sensible and reasonable parents become involved with so many other activities that they become strangers to the people they love. People who are over-committed continue to accept more customers or clients, more committee work, more projects, more administrative responsibilities, or more classes. Making, or agreeing to, commitments you can not keep is hazardous for your business. Good business practice comes downs to proper planning and executing-under-promising and over-delivering. You must plan well and execute well; both of these depend heavily on making commitments that are attainable. Make and meet realistic commitments. When commitments are in jeopardy of not being met, communicate the problems early on and solicit help to address challenges before commitments are missed. How you fulfill your promises either strengthens or weakens your relationship with your customers/clients.

Over-commitment is an easy trap to fall into. In your eagerness to meet a customer's needs, you may promise to deliver by a particular date without realizing you have made a prior commitment to complete other work. You may overstate your abilities to ensure you get the project. Instead, develop the habit of pausing long enough to contemplate your workload and other commitments before responding; evaluate your resources, analyze your abilities, and determine if you are able to meet the new obligation.

Sometimes a customer will pressure you to agree to a deadline you know you cannot meet unless you drop other commitments or work excessive hours. Sometimes you might be afraid to tell a customer you can't deliver as promised because you don't want to face the embarrassment or anxiety, don't want to make the customer angry, or don't want to lose the customer's business. At times like these, you need to be careful not to allow your fear to push you into making a promise you can't keep. More often than not, your customers will respond well when they understand that you only promise what you can deliver. You may lose an occasional project or order, but your credibility will continue intact.

If poor organization and administrative habits are contributing to broken commitments, you need a better system for tracking and improving your processes. You might agree to send a proposal, but then forget to write it down or misplace the details. You might double-book appointments. You might over-stretch your resources. Or, you may fail to communicate an important deadline or specifications with your staff-no one else knows about the promise you've made. Even the most effective business people will occasionally fall short and fail to honor a commitment. When it happens, the best resolution is to immediately contact your customer to own up, apologize, and describe how you will correct the situation. Customers don't want to hear your excuses or bear the consequences of your mistakes. Be willing to accept full responsibility, demonstrate accountability, go above-and-beyond their expectations, and make good on your commitments. Promises made and upheld will strengthen your customer relationships and business success.

So next time when the pressure's on, stop and ask yourself, "Am I making this commitment based on the knowledge that I can follow through, or am I just trying to lock in the business?"

Copyright 2003 by Natalie Gahrmann

About the Author:
Natalie Gahrmann, is a workshop/seminar leader, writer, success coach and expert in work/life mastery who delights in helping others achieve their goals and live the life they truly want. She is a graduate of Coach University and a member of the International Coach Federation, NJ Professional Coaches Association and the Alliance of Work/Life Professionals. She combines life experiences and extensive training to motivate others to achieve better results, unlock creativity and gain personal fulfillment in their work and personal life. To learn more about how coaching can help you, call to arrange a complimentary 30-minute coaching session. For more tips, advice and resources see "Succeeding as A Super Busy Parent: 75 Practical Tips for Balancing Life, Love, Kids, and Career" (Infinity Publishing, 2002) and visit www.superbusyparent.com. To subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter for working parents, send a blank email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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