Overcommitted? Six Ways to Escape.

Are you way too overcommitted with good works to do the great stuff God has in mind for you?

If you’ve gotten yourself into a volunteer commitment that is keeping you too busy to pursue your dreams, goals, or higher purpose, then you’re not being a good steward of God’s gifts. You’ve got to escape, and I’m going to tell you how.

I’m in the process of stepping down from serving as board member and secretary of a wonderful organization. Thing is, I’m a terrible secretary. I’m the opposite of detail-oriented, I’m irreverent about protocol, and I tend to daydream. During one important meeting of the entire organization, I completely forgot to take notes. The position was a mismatch, and God was opening doors in a completely different direction. So after a lot of prayer and angst, here’s how I escaped.

Approach a sympathetic person with little to lose. Somewhere above or around you in the organization is someone who sees the bigger picture and realizes that an unhappy, overcommitted volunteer is not the right gal for the job. Get this person on your side, and she can tactfully frame the news of your departure.

Give the right excuse. I know, nobody likes to make excuses. But you need to tell a story that those you’re ditching can repeat without feeling hurt or obligated to argue. My (true) excuses were that (1) my career is moving in a different direction, and (2) my daughter’s complicated schedule makes it difficult for me to travel to board meetings. I didn’t do the whole “I’m bad at this” excuse, even though that’s probably the most true, because my listener would have felt obliged to argue, might have even thought I wanted her to argue.

Be definite. Don’t waffle around and say that you might want to quit. Instead, say that you need to step down at a specified time . . . then STOP TALKING. It’s cleaner, you’ll feel better about yourself, and there’s less likelihood of your being sucked back in.

Suggest a replacement. The good side of being overcommitted is feeling super important and irreplaceable, but in truth, there are probably other people who can do the jobs you’re doing. So take a deep breath, let go of your attachment to the job, and think of at least two people in the organization whom you could suggest as your own replacement.

Offer to help with the transition. If you’ve proactively decided to escape your unwanted position before you’re totally fed up, you will have enough energy left to do a good job of leaving. Spend an hour with your replacement; be available for phone calls and questions. Pass along relevant notes and materials. Leaving well will not only help your successor, it’ll help you let go too.

Be prepared to feel some regret . . . and some ecstasy. Even if you’ve outgrown your commitment—or you never really loved it in the first place—there was a reason you volunteered, and you’ll probably feel a little sad about leaving. But you’ll also feel amazingly free.

Even the thought of shucking off a responsibility makes many of us people-pleasers feel guilty. But the truth is that God has plans for you, and you need to be available—to feel his nudge in a new direction, and to step through doors of opportunity he opens for you.

 Happy shucking! Let me know how it goes.



Leave a Reply

1 Comment on "Overcommitted? Six Ways to Escape."

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Alan Friedman

I feel lighter already. Thank you, Lee!