The 3 Ways I Overcommit, Get Overwhelmed, and Fail

It’s my natural instinct to bite off more than I can chew, to always say “Yes!,” and then to suffer a paralyzing sense of overwhelm. Sometimes, it turns out, our instincts are wrong. Here is what I’m doing about it.
Be Our Guest | posted by René Brooks
Overcommitting, Getting Overwhelmed, and Failing with Adult ADHD

I grew up in a family that loved watching classic movies. One of my favorites is a black-and-white film called Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant. It's about a guy who trades in New York City’s hectic pace for a quiet, peaceful slice of Connecticut. He buys a quaint, old house with big plans to transform it into his ideal home. But as the remodel begins, Mr. Blandings realizes that he has bitten off waaaaaay more than he can chew. Hilarity ensues.

The best part of the movie? It's like watching my own life as a chronic overcommitter on the screen — and recognizing, all over again, all of the reasons it is so unhealthy.

In an effort to change my bad habits, I began working with a coach several years ago who helped me pinpoint three reasons why I said I would do too much, got overwhelmed, and then floundered. Here they are:

1. People pleasing: I went out of my way to make other people happy – even when I was personally inconvenienced. I suspect I did it to make up for upsetting them in the first place with my ADHD symptoms.

"Oh, did I show up late? Well that's alright, I'll bake 50 dozen cookies for the bake sale, of course!" The next thing I knew, it was the night before the bake sale, I was covered in flour, baking for my life, and wondering how I got there.

Eventually – after many late nights in the kitchen – I realized an apology and making an effort to do better next time was a healthier, more realistic response.

2. Forgetting what I already committed to: "Where are you keeping track of this stuff?" It’s a question I hear frequently from my ADHD coach – a question I never answer consistently.

I make a list and keep it in my phone. Or put it on a calendar. Heck, I even write it on the back of my hand – as long as it’s not just in my head, where I will inevitably forget. Then, when I’m tempted to say Yes! to one more thing, I see my five active projects , and think twice.

3. Over (or under) estimating the amount of time something will take: Just like Mr. Blandings, I build castles in the sky, imaginary castles where everything goes off without a hitch. But then when I get stuck in a traffic jam, the planets misalign, my computer eats it, or I just need a moment to breathe, the whole plan falls apart.

Now, when I’m estimating the time I need for a project, I operate as if everything will go wrong, and I schedule in extra time. That way when time blindness takes hold, that extra half hour is already accounted for.

Now, when I am about to say, “Yes!” I operate with caution. I take some time to think it over. Is it guilt? What do I have on my current list of projects? Do I have enough room to give myself extra time? If all of those things don’t line up, I remind myself that it’s really OK to say, “No, not this time.”

 
 
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