How To Not Overcommit Yourself

How To Not Overcommit Yourself

“Hey Ollin, my struggle is that I’ve overcommitted myself to too many creative projects. Help!”

“Hey Ollin, how can I pursue my passion for writing while simultaneously pursuing my other passions, without making any these passions a main priority? Is there way I can follow my passion for writing as well as my passion for other things all at the same time? Can’t I just do it all?”

Somehow, somewhere down the line, the advice to “follow your passion,” “follow your purpose,” or “live your life to the fullest” got translated into: “make yourself really busy and commit yourself to as many projects as you can every day.”

This translation has caused a vast disconnect with many people and actually has made it far more difficult for folks to commit to following their passion than anything else has.

This is why so many have you have told me that you do not struggle to write, but you struggle to keep life simple enough so that you may pursue this passion fully and completely. Some of you even think that when I say “follow your passion” it means you have to be overwhelmed with tasks associated with this passion.

The reason you do all this is maybe because the popular rapper Drake has told you “you only live once,” or maybe its because I once told you that “you have to seize the day.”

Well, I’ll be the first to say that you shouldn’t listen to Drake—or me. Drake because he’s stinking rich and so he can take advantage every opportunity known to man because he happens to be one of the most popular rappers in the world (and because of all that “street cred” he established as a wheel-chair bound teenager in the hit Canadian TV series Degrassi.) And me, well, you shouldn’t listen to me because I’m famously inconsistent, which clearly makes me a douchebag. This you know already. So why are you listening to me, again? Oh that’s right: because I have blog and I’m incredibly clever.

No, but seriously: even though I give advice on this blog, I’ve certainly never pretended to be a superhuman. I, like you, am just a regular human trying to figure things out. So I can’t give you the ultimate answer to all your issues, but I can share with you the insight I’ve learned in my own life with the hope that it might help you.

How To Not Overcommit Yourself

And so, if you are one of the many out there that have overcommitted themselves to several creative projects, or have the crazy notion that somehow you can pursue all your passions all at once, then let me give you a slice of Ollin’s classic, no-nonsense, salt-of-the-earth, slighty-gay-but-in-a-good-way, advice:

Chill out.

No seriously: calm the frak down. This is not a competition. This isn’t an episode of The Amazing Race, for god sakes. What’s the matter with you?

The whole point of following your passion in the first place is to ENJOY your life. It is to have FUN. It is to smile when you wake up in the morning because you’re going to write one more page of that wonderful novel you’re working on; or because you’re finally gonna figure out what’s missing on that beautiful mural you’re touching up in your studio; or because you’re completing that last storyboard for that mystery film you’re directing.

Simply put: if you feel you’ve overcommitted yourself to too many creative projects, or if you feel like you must be pursuing all your life passions all at once (even though you know that this is impossible and unrealistic), then clearly you have mistaken “following your passion” with “keeping yourself so busy that the stress causes you to grow Gandalf hair and get Gollum eyes.”

Despite what you may have heard, being busy is not a prerequisite to following your passion: you could follow your passion and have plenty of free time leftover if you want.

It’s totally your choice.

“Oh, but Ollin, that sounds like I’m a lazy creative person. How can I do that? I can’t just slack off, can I?”

Please, be my guest: if you’re a person who thinks they need to have tons of projects going on all at once, then you”re a person who really should be advised to CHILL OUT AND RELAX. LET YOURSELF BE LAZY FOR ONCE!

In fact, if you’re a person who feels “overcommitted” all the time, then you need to start committing to other things for a change. Commit yourself to a date once a week. Commit yourself to a nice massage once a week. Commit yourself to a nice dinner once a week. Commit yourself to the experience of life, rather than the busyness of life.

You may fool others, but you don’t fool me: you’re not happy with being overcommitted. You’re not happy with worrying about how to balance all your passions all at once. I also know that you have not been very successful at all of this. Why? Because if you had been successful and happy with this approach, then you wouldn’t be asking me this question.

You know as well as I do that this has got to stop: you cannot continue to have so many creative projects going all at once.

“You’re so right Ollin: I have to focus. I have to simplify. Great advice! So here are my action items for this conversation: I’m going to create a chart, and then a calendar item, and then one of those Siri voice memos, and then an alarm to remind me to not overcommit myself and instead find out what Degrassi is…”

No, no! Stop right there! OH MY GOD.

“What? What’s wrong?”

Don’t you see? You’re doing it again. Your overcommitting yourself by creating a laundry list of things you’re going to do in order to keep yourself from being overcommitted!!!

“Holy crap, Ollin, you’re right. I need to print this out, or create a anagram, or one of those mnemonic devices, or create a post-it note in order to remind me of…”

Okay, no: you’re not gonna do that.

“What? How do you know that?”

Because YOU JUST TOLD ME YOU HAVE TOO MANY COMMITMENTS! That’s your problem. You’re obsessed with busyness—in fact you are addicted to it.

You see, an addiction is something harmful you engage in over and over again that you are unaware is bad for you—or something you still engage in even after you’ve become aware that it’s bad for you.

Your overcommitment has become an addiction and it is harmful to you. It is harmful to you because you know it does not give you enough time to take care of yourself and actually progress in the area of your passion. It is harmful to you because it does not give you enough time to simply enjoy life and be happy IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

This may be a simple thing for you to realize at first glance, but the more you think about it, the more profound this statement will be to you.

Here’s Why You Wanted To “Overcommit” Yourself In The First Place

Remember: life is meant to be enjoyed. It is not meant to feel like a hassle 24/7. (Sometimes it can be a hassle, I know, but it shouldn’t always be like that.)

I, personally, would recommend that you change your whole outlook on life right now. Today: drop several commitments and use that time instead to take care of yourself, or just enjoy life. If you feel guilty doing this, then remember how overcommitted you were yesterday, and just imagine that you’re making up for lost time. You’ve clearly earned it after working so hard.

I know: this exercise sounds rebellious. But it’s not rebellious at all. It’s not rebellious because the act of truly enjoying life was the initial purpose behind all those commitments you “overcommitted” yourself to—that was the whole reason you wanted to pursue all your passions all at once, wasn’t it?

Now, for some time, you may have been convinced that more commitments and more passions would translate into more life. But, as you are beginning to realize, more passions and more commitments may actually lead you to less life.

In order to have “more life,” then, all you have to do is do something that makes life fun, and then commit to whatever it was that made life fun.

The rest will take care of itself.

much love,


Today’s Courage Exercise

If you are finding that you’re “overcommitted,” then drop a few commitments and instead use that time to take care of yourself and have fun.

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Categories: Writer's Journal