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How often do you overcommit and stretch yourself too thin?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How often do you overcommit and stretch yourself too thin?

  • Always — I consistently commit to too much and am always stretched: 36%
  • Sometimes — I’ll overcommit occasionally but it’s not too frequent: 44%
  • Rarely — Every once in a while I’ll overcommit but not often: 17%
  • Never — I am very mindful of not overcommitting myself ever: 3%

Beware of overcommitting. It’s easy to commit to more than we can handle. We want to be helpful. We fail to forecast unforeseen events. We overestimate our capabilities. We want to look like we’re on top of everything. The danger is when the bill comes due and we owe all that work we promised to deliver. To balance out this risk of overcommitting, keep an active list of projects and always check it before accepting new work. Place calendar holds on your schedule to block time for new commitments. If it doesn’t fit on your list or calendar, you should probably pass on it or negotiate a more favorable deadline. You’re the only one who can protect your time. Beware of saying “yes” to too much because you might never get it done.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”