Death by overstretch

New opportunities don't carry obligations to take them up. The euphoria, and pushy marketing, that surrounds the opening of a new committee role, a new time commitment, or a new venture, is prone to clouding our better judgement. We can take on more than is reasonable or doable. We can fall into the trap of biting off more than we can chew.

I realise that this is a common mistake, because I've seen myself, and most of my friends, do it. What I'd encourage, and what I'm slowly starting to see as a life motto, is prioritising quality over quantity. If you can't do a job or fulfil a role properly, its worth and utility to you/others is clearly limited. If anything, it might bring little meaning and lots of stress to your life. If CV-building is the sole reason why you jumped on that bandwagon, it will probably show - think about the likelihood of that impression trickling through in an interview situation. In general, if the motivation, and/or ability to follow through with your promised contribution, are missing, have a rethink: maybe you could use your time in more enriching, or productive, ways.

I say 'enriching' because I think there's wisdom in self care, in taking the time to check in on yourself. To breathe, in short. Your commitment to other pursuits stands to gain a lot. When they become part of the diversity, rather than monotony, in your life, when you get to invest more time, effort and care into them; it's at that point that you can make the most of a real work-life balance. When Thomas Friedman tells us to 'thank [others] for being late', I think he's onto something. There are benefits to pausing, taking a break. Making time for oneself, a slice of time that we can call our own, and dedicate strictly to ourselves and our needs, is a small luxury we’d do well to grant ourselves.

Knowing how quit early, or to cut out a commitment-too-many, is a skill in itself – it really is worth practicing principles like ‘quitting while you’re ahead’ sometimes. Employers tend to valorise a focused/thorough commitment to a few things over and above a superficial/half-hearted handling of many. Projecting forward in 10 years' time, too, you’ll only remember and take genuine pride in the things you did seriously.

Death by overstretch is a fate we can all avoid – the good news is, it’s not inevitable. In the meantime, there are lots of things you can do and/or reflect on to work out whether the commitments you’ve set up for yourself are compatible with your wellbeing and peace of mind overall.