Commitment Issues

  • Jeff Gibbard
  • 4 min read

Let’s talk about two made-up ideas.

Multitasking is largely an illusion and over-committed is a misnomer.

“Multi-Tasking”

When you are multitasking what you are really doing is quickly task switching. The brain is virtually incapable of thinking about two things at once.

You’re not good at it, I’m not good at it, no one is good at it…and chances are it’s really bad for you.

We should stop pretending it’s real.

“Over-Committed”

People who are very busy and have too many obligations often use the term over-committed. However, if you have made more commitments than you have the capacity to honor, then you are not over-committed, you are under-committed, because you have not actually committed to seeing it through to completion.

If you were really committed to everything on your list, you wouldn’t have taken on tasks that cause you to exceed your availability and threaten your prior commitments.

Therefore, if you need a euphemism for having taken on too much, may I suggest saying you are overly ambitious, absentmindedly enthusiastic but, tragically under-committed.

Does any of this resonate? For instance…

  • Do you ever feel overwhelmed, overworked, or scattered?
  • Do you ever feel guilty about not getting to everything, or neglecting those things that are important to you?
  • Are you ever uncertain about what to do next?

Yeah…me too. here’s a big reason why it happens to me.

The Tyranny of Possibility

I struggle with taking on too many projects.

I think my problem is that I fall in love with my ideas and see the glorious possibilities of every endeavor. I do this without being realistic about the time and energy it will take to execute, because I’m far too focused on the vision I have for its end point. I see the path and the destination clearly, but rarely do a personal feasibility analysis. So…

  • I map out new projects, formulate new business ideas, and strategize new partnerships.
  • I add new content projects, buy too many books, and track too many habits.
  • I reorganize my task list, then my calendar, then my task list again.

My ideas list continues to grow because I’m overly ambitious, absentmindedly enthusiastic, and (apparently) under-committed. I see the possibility of success in every endeavor…all I need is the time.

Mapping The Perfect Day

I recently did an analysis on how many hours I would need for my perfect day. Depending on how ambitious I chose to be, it could range anywhere from 26.5 hours up to 32.5 hours. In either case, it’s more than I have available.

It turns out, that the only way to get it back under 24, is to start deleting things. The things we really want require a sacrifice. We kill the lower priority projects so that the most important ones may live. Then, we kill the medium priority projects so the most important ones can thrive.

It all makes sense, but when the moment arrives, I experience deletion hesitancy.

Failure is not an option

The cruelest irony is that taking on too much and under-committing to what is most important is perhaps the best way to fail at accomplishing your most important goals. Yet, at the same time, to delete an idea, or give up on a project feels like failure. It feels like an explicit acknowledgment of not being enough. But after careful consideration, I continually arrive at the realization that we will not be able to multitask our way out of this problem and we won’t be able to add more hours to the day.

In the end, we’re left with only two options.

  • Build a team
  • Decide what’s really important and be brave enough to be truly committed

But even if you build a team, you may find yourself back in the same place if you don’t make a change about what you say yes to.

Which brings you right back to the ultimate conclusion:

Decide what’s really important and be brave enough to be truly committed

Becoming Superhuman
Becoming Superhuman
Commitment Issues
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