The writer of Ecclesiastes said there is a time for everything. Unfortunately, I tend to think that I have time for everything.
When I stepped out from my role of running a Christian school in Ohio several years ago, we went for almost a year with no income. I tell more about the story in my book A Story Worth Telling, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t easy.
Six kids to feed, a beautiful wife to provide for, a mortgage to pay, and nothing but the belief that God had called me to write and minister to His Kingdom-at-Large.
Eventually opportunities began to surface as I kept moving forward, stumbling and learning as I went. We moved to Atlanta to position myself for maximum effectiveness.
And it all began to come together.
Now I have a different problem.
What happens when you move from having nothing to do to a place where you have so much to do that you feel overwhelmed?
The Question of When to Say When
That’s the question I’ve wrestled with for the last many weeks.
As you may have noticed, I took August off to focus on the Ziglar Family project. I’ve sent you a few emails of late to be the first to experience the new course and to give you an opportunity to help your family at a significant discount.
But August turned into September. And now it’s October. And I am still feeling over-committed.
I have a few key projects on my plate in addition to the Ziglar Family effort. I LOVE what I do and more people need more help than ever.
I confess, it’s intoxicating to know people need you. It certainly is better than the year I spent wondering if I would ever be of any help to anyone ever again.
But here is one thing I’m in the process of learning–it takes faith to say no.
I really do not like saying No to anyone.
If I can help, my auto-response is that I should help. I suspect that is partly due to my personality and mostly due to a mindset that infects much of Christianity–a misunderstanding of service.
We tend to pour ourselves out for others–and think that the more spent we feel, the closer to God we are. But it just isn’t true.
When we spread ourselves too thin, we actually help less than we could have, because the quality of our help declines. The people we’re called to serve the most–our families– suffer the most.
We think we’re doing more, but we’re actually doing less–and none of it is as good as it should be.
The tough truth I struggle to embrace is this: I can’t do it all.
I know that may seem an obvious truth, but I often think that I CAN find a way to pull it off.
But the truth is that Jesus came to the world for one purpose. His ministry remained focused on his purpose. And the same is true for me and you. If we’re not clear on our purpose, we will end up scattered and ineffective and overwhelmed and–quite frankly, worn out.
What I’m Doing about It
When I recognized my struggle with being overcommitted, I reached out for help.
I enlisted the guidance of my life coach who steered me well through my transition several years ago.
He recommended I start by reading a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I HIGHLY recommend it if you have every felt overwhelmed by life (I suspect that is everyone).
I ordered it from Amazon immediately and had read it within two days of receiving it. Then I began to re-read it. Powerful and effective book.
I put up some boundaries. I set up an autoresponder in my personal email account to let people know I may not be getting back to them ASAP because of the projects on my plate. I didn’t like doing it, but it is reality. If I don’t protect my time to write and create, no one else will. And I will fail to fulfill my calling.
I enlisted the help of my wife. My wife is a guardian and better able to tell people no–or at least to tell me to tell people no. So I’ve enlisted her help with planning (an area of strength for her), which also increases accountability.
I began telling people no. I do NOT like turning down projects or telling people I can’t help them. But I began to do it. And guess what–the world didn’t end. (Ok, I confess I am still afraid that it might, but….)
I refocused on my relationship with the source of all wisdom and strength. When we get busy, one of the first things to go is our time with God and His word. I got intentional about protecting that time–and expanding that time to meditate, pray, and think.
I am slowly coming to terms with the reality that I cannot do it all. I am realizing that if I am to keep the main thing the main thing then I must turn down a lot of really good opportunities. But it is still very much a work in progress.
If I am to live a story worth telling, I must choose certain, specific paths and not try to explore all of them at once.
I believe that to be true. Now I need to act on what I believe to be true.
I’ll let you know what I discover, just in case you’ve ever felt overcommitted and overwhelmed.
Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve ever felt this same pressure to please and overcommit.
I’m hoping I’m not the first person to struggle with saying no.