Battling the plague of over-engagement
By Melissa Stefanec
College — it’s a time for so, so many things. It feels like there are not enough hours in the day for everything.
Classes, studying, commuting, jobs, clubs, internships, athletics, time with friends, networking, volunteering, exercising, going out and group projects.
After a while, college feels like a cyclone whose only reprieve is the five hours of sleep you can sneak in at night.
In an age where we are constantly connected via social networking, email, texting and obligations, it seems to-do lists are infinite while energy is ever so finite.
With so much to do in anage when you are supposed to be all things to all people and organizations, when is involvement more than enough? When does involvement and engagement become insanity?
Employers want a lot on recent college graduates’ resumes. They want great grades. They want work experience. They want leadership experience derived from memberships in clubs and organizations. They want internships. They want volunteer work. They want people who have passions and hobbies. They want to know prospective employees will give the proverbial 110 percent when they come to work. They want everything and then some — or so students are led to believe.
In turn, many college students give too much of themselves. They have late nights and try to get by on little sleep. They say yes to everything. They search out contributing roles in the classroom, on the court and field, and in the workforce. They try to be everything at once and often become exhausted and overspent. And, then, they find themselves failing at their commitments and checking out.
I know this, because I have been there.
I tried to do it all in high school. I tried to do it all in college. I am still trying to do it all with two young kids, a full-time job, a freelance gig and a husband who works a lot.
Over-engagement is like a disease. It works its way into your system in elementary school, takes root in high school and sets down lifelong roots in college.
When you reach the end of another seemingly never-ending day, ask yourself if the monster of over-engagement is overtaking your life.
If it is, you may feel like there is no way to break the cycle. Don’t give up, you can do it.
There is no better time like the present to start laying down new habits. There is still time to redirect and put yourself on the path to sanity and moderation.
The balance of the rest of your life may very well depend on it.
Here are some of my personal tips to help regain control of your time and energy. Let them be a way of leashing the engagement monster.
1 Just say no
Perhaps this popular anti-drug slogan should follow you through life and be applied to a great many things. We are often taught that we should say no to inherently bad things. However, we aren’t taught to be assertive and say no to good things that turn bad. Being a member of a club or organization is great, but not if it comes at the cost of sleep or sanity. If you can’t reasonably do something, say no.
2 Take a role, but not a starring role in everything
Most of us want to be contributors. Many of us want to be leaders. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take a look at everything in your schedule and decide if you can reasonably commit to a task. If you can’t, bring yourself to say no, see if you can play a smaller role in the commitment at hand. Sometimes, it’s all right to give a little. You don’t always have to give everything.
3 Choose engagements that truly build your resume
Not all commitments are created equal. Some are better resume fodder than others. Be discerning and honest with yourself. If you are going to dedicate your valuable time to something, try your best to make it pay off down the road.
4 Choose engagements that fill your soul
As much as resume fodder is important, don’t choose engagements solely based on their likelihood to score you a job later in life. Make sure you find commitments that feed your goals and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. This will make them seem less like commitments and more like activities.
5 Be honest with yourself and then be honest with others
The first step in being honest with others is being honest with yourself. Most of us want to meet other people’s expectations. When we say we will do something, we want to get that thing done. If you think you can’t get it done, be honest with the person or people putting an offer in front of you and be honest early on. Those people will appreciate your honesty. Being assertive and prudent with your obligations and time will usually be well received and respected by those around you, as long as you do it early on. Please see tip No. 1 of this article if you need motivation.
6 Listen to your body
If you are having a hard time being honest with yourself, listen to your body. It knows what’s right for you. If you are having to drag yourself to most of your engagements, feel burned out all the time, find yourself getting sick a lot, or find your outlook consistently being negative, your body may be trying to tell you something about the speed of your life. It’s OK to slow down. Slowing down is a good thing.
7 Ace Self-Care 423
When it comes to the important things, we often put ourselves last. We may find it easy to treat ourselves to a special beverage or favorite service, but treating ourselves to downtime or idle fun can be a lot harder. The reality is, there is will always be more to do. None of us will ever be caught up. Being caught up on life tasks is an illusion. We all need to take time for ourselves. Time to truly relax. Time to unwind with a favorite hobby. Time to read. Time to be with a friend. Time to exercise or meditate. Time to talk with a loved one.
If your schedule is so full you have no time for self-care, engagements aren’t enhancing your life, they are ruling it.
Make sure you get your highest marks in self-care. If you can accomplish that, all the other tasks on this list will become a whole lot easier. You got this.