Feeling Spread Too Thin

From Jaxon’s Soccer Game 1-17-09

by Jessawhy

Most people find the holidays to be the most stressful time of year. Not me.  Somehow March Madness isn’t about basketball anymore.  The pace of my life is maddening.

I am spread WAY too thin.

Other worthy causes consume my time, energy, and mental exertion where I should be focused on my family.

To illustrate this point, I had a particularly stressful day on Thursday, which resulted in (I am not kidding) my leaving my 16 month old baby at the soccer field after practice.

It was horribly scary. Luckily, other families stayed until I figured out what I had done a few minutes later. Regardless, I lived through a nightmare and put my child at risk just because I had been too distracted with good things to pay attention to the most important things.

So I know I must simplify and cut back, but how?

I don’t like my calling, so that’s easy, ask to be released. (My husband wishes I had more inner conflict about that, but I don’t.)

But what about other good things that I choose to do?  Blogging at Exponent? Planning a retreat? Book club #1? Book club #2? Serving on the Board of Directors of a local non-profit? Organizing events for the non-profit? Speaking at Enrichment? Hosting family members who are visiting? Helping out sisters in need? Babysitting for single parents?

There are so many worthy causes to which we can give our time. How do we know which ones are really the best use of our time and which ones could do well enough without us?

I’m really struggling with this right now, and I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences where you’ve realized how overcommitted you are, perhaps because you can’t say no, or perhaps because you love to do things.

How do you go from acknowledging that you’re spread too thin to actually cutting back the commitments?

For me, many of my obligations are short term. April looks to be a little more relaxing. How do you get through the crunch time until life settles down again?

From Jaxon’s Soccer Game 1-17-09


  1. I get through crunch time by basically letting entropy take over in my house.

    Other than that, I’ve got one rule. If it’s going to take away from my waking time with my son or the few evenings a week I have with my husband, I usually just don’t do it. I work full time and DH has a nights and weekends type job, so I have to be really selective about stuff. It means I miss out on quite a few things, but that’s just how it’s got to be right now.

  2. Jessica,
    Don’t feel too bad about your toddler. These sorts of things happen all the time, I expect.

    Here’s an obvious suggestion, but cutting out all T.V. works for me. When I was totally stressed last semester, I drastically cut back on the shows I like to watch, and I got a surprising amount of stuff done from 8 – 11 at night after Evan was in bed. (You may have already done that, however.) Another thing I do is go to the gym – not to work out, but to get work done. (Thank you , gym, for the cheap child care!) Two hours of time for me to read my books or write or do whatever. I love it.

    I often find that the busier I am, the more I get accomplished on all fronts of my life. On days when I don’t have any pressing business, I tend to do very little and then I feel crap.

  3. I’m sorry that you’re feeling spread too thin. I really hate that feeling, so I can relate to your need to simplify. I wish I had really great advice, but the best I can offer is that when my youngest gets a little older I’ll take all yours for an afternoon!

  4. mb,
    Thanks for the link to that talk. I vaguely remember it, and I’m interested in checking it out again.

    Emily U,
    Entropy is pretty much our state of existence here. I did think about working mothers as I read this post. I don’t know how you do it!

    Good points about feeling more productive when you’re busier. That’s how I live, too. I’ve also found that I am better at cleaning when I have music going.
    I’ve pretty much cut out TV programs, but we do play games on the Wii sometimes, and watch movies occasionally. My biggest time sap is the internet, and blogging (obviously). I crave the interaction I get here.

    There is nothing harder than having a newborn, and your is harder than mine were. I think the stress I have is a less exhaustingly painful kind than yours. I should take your kids for an afternoon!

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  5. I ask for help. I start thinking about all the things that I absolutely have to do, and re-examine if I have to do them. (Cleaning at my children’s pre-school for example. Does it need to be done? yes. Can I reschedule? Yes).
    I am not someone who easily asks for help, and when I do, I often have requirements about the form that help takes. (Are you going to load the dishwasher? Right now? Rinsing everything out twice? – you get the picture).

    So, I ask for help and let go of the responsibilities I’ve delegated. Best of luck to you.

  6. this summer i’m ready to ease into a whole lotta ‘do nothing’ (cut back on youth activities, more write/read, return to dance/swim, some travel with Rob).

    i MIGHT teach 1 class at Oglala Lakota College (where I’m full-time now), but only if it’s strictly a lit class (i don’t wanna help others in a writing class, when writing is what i feel i really need to get back to).

    I would also like to finish up the last of my scrapbooking projects, finalize/update my filing, & do a fairly thorough cleaning of our apt.

    this current semester is already wearing on me (i teach 5 courses–3 literature, 2 research paper classes). add to that the madness of being YW Prez (again!) & my extra-curricular time on the nearby Pine Ridge Rez (faculty committee meetings, humanities dept review rotations, etc.)–& u have a fairly frazzled woman @ the mid-term buoy…i’m feeling a little drowned, I guess, & can only swim further out to sea if allowed to take my time.

    i’m feeling spread too thin, & we don’t even have kids yet…it’s almost comical…

  7. 5 courses, Kiri? Yikes!

    Jessawhy, as an avid reader of your blogging, I would vote in favor of your not cutting back on blogging. It’s my feeling that if you put your blogging first, everything else will fall into place. 🙂 (Yes, I’m a total hypocrite who puts blogging aside when I’m overwhelmed–I just want everyone else to keep it up so I have fun stuff to read.)

  8. to be really candid and it goes with my mood today. your answer would be lose a child. people tend to expect less from you so they don’t ask. likely not appropriate answer but it isn’t sugar coated either

  9. I can feel your pain. A year ago, I finally admitted the REAL answer to “How do you do it all?” I realized I miss out on life..the good parts of life…the parts you can’t get back, like making memories with my children. I was so busy volunteering in so many organizations and activities that my family got lost in the process. That is when I decided to begin living Hands Free…to let go of the daily distraction that was robbing me of precious moments and begin grasping what really matters. I began saying no to things that did not directly impact my children or my utilize my passions in life. I began letting the need to do everything at 110% perfection level. I began turning off my phone and my computer so that I could give my family my total and complete focus. It has been 11 months since I went Hands Free and I am happier, less stressed, more grateful, and feeling healthier and more free than I ever have. My family is reaping the benefits, too. I would love for you to join me on my journey to be Hands Free! Good luck!

  10. […] sounding awfully familiar and I realize that 3 years ago (almost to the day) I wrote about being spread too thin, where I had been so busy I had had left my toddler on the soccer practice […]

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