I would rather balance my checkbook than balance my calendar any day. While I  am very rarely overdrawn in my checking account, my calendar has often run “in the red” leaving me overwhelmed, under rested and stretched thin. It’s an area I have worked on for years, and while I currently live with more freedom and balance than years past, it has been a huge battle to get there!

In my experience working with women, there are two reasons we end up overcommitted in our time: people pleasing and unrealistic expectations. (I had both so…..yikes!) People pleasers say yes to feel accepted and liked. Volunteer for VBS? Sure! Sit on this committee? You Bet! Run the upcoming 5K fundraiser? Absolutely? They rarely stop to ask if they want to say yes, if they have the ability to follow through or if it even makes sense! The fear of what others will think if they say no is too overwhelming and as a result of their frequent “Yes’s” they end being first on everyone’s list when looking for help.

On the other end, saying yes to every fun/inspiring/new idea because of unrealistic thinking lands you with the same result for different reasons. Women who struggle here simply don’t allow enough time for each responsibility and relationship they take on. They often think it’s possible to squeeze 28 hours worth of activity into a 24 hour day. They fill every blank on their calendars with meetings and coffee dates and projects and ministry, but forget to allot space for down time, self-care and unexpected life stuff: traffic, getting sick, spilling coffee all over the front of your white shirt on the way out the door (last month for me!) They are frequently frustrated that their perfect schedule on paper is not working quite so smoothly in real life.

What is the one simple step to keep from being over committed no matter which problem area you deal with?

Never, ever give a yes on the spot.

Learn to say this sentence- “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” That’s it! Sounds simple I know, but when I learned to stop giving an answer to requests in real time and instead delayed for a day or so, my schedule began to look and feel more manageable. Here’s why it helps so much- it allows time for your emotions to be neutral before giving an answer. Whether you need to neutralize the fear of someone’s else’s expectations or your own excitement about a super amazing invitation, you will make wiser and more realistic choices if you delay.

We already understand this principle in our finances regarding impulse shopping. We know it’s smart to walk away and let our emotions calm down before spending money on something we had not already planned to purchase. The same holds true for impulse committing. Stepping away not only allows emotions to calm down but also time to think through what they “Yes” will really cost you in energy and time as well as if there is realistically enough space to add it to your life.

As with most change, there is likely to be resistance from within and without so don’t get discouraged if it takes awhile to learn balance in your time management, especially if it’s a big problem area. Keep practicing the magic sentence “Let me check my schedule, and I’ll get back to you, half hearted” and eventually it will pay off! The blessing of living with reasonable commitments is the space to breathe and be still; to listen for the Lord’s promptings to stop and pray or reach out to that coworker or write a note to encourage a friend. And it allows each Yes to be completed with excellence half-heartedefforts from being stretched too thin. Our time is a gift from God, and using it wisely honors Him.