The not-to-do list: Overextend yourself

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Emily Linderman

Emily Linderman

Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m an organized freak.

Well, my bedroom is sort of a mess, but I know where everything on the floor is. When I say I’m an organized freak, I mean I keep my schedule incredibly organized. I live by an hourly planner. Yes, an actual pen and paper planner, not my phone. If I don’t write things down, they won’t happen. I spent about two weeks this summer searching for the perfect planner, and I’m almost positive I’ve seen every academic planner out there.

I finally landed on the Passion Planner, which I’m obsessed with now. In the monthly layout, there’s a space for a “not-to-do list,” which is for bad habits you are trying to break. I was first unsure what to do with this space. My planner is supposed to help me organize the things I’m supposed to be doing. Being the modest person I am, I could not think of a single bad habit I had when I sat down to write in it. Looking at my jam-packed week, though, I decided September’s not-to-do would be to overextend myself.

At the end of the spring semester, I was committed to a number of activities: an editor and writer for The Brown and White, the marketing chair for Swing Dance Club, the student spirit chair for the Association of Student Alumni, a caller at Lehigh Liners and a Young Life leader at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, as well as a potential work-study job. This was all on top of the 18 credits I would be taking in the fall.

Ignoring concerns from friends, family and professors, I was confident I could balance all of my responsibilities with the help of a reliable planner. Ironically, the same people who warned me of the dangers of overextending myself were the same ones who had pushed me to take some of these positions in the first place. That being said, I was genuinely excited about the upcoming semester. I had a legitimate passion for all of the activities I was committed to, and I wanted to be able to serve some of my favorite clubs as a leader.

At the end of July, I had an epiphany. I still believed I could do everything I was committed to, but it occurred to me that just because I could didn’t mean I should. I saw a stressful semester ahead of me full of shoddy work, and it wasn’t something I wanted to put myself through. I valued my sanity more than that.

I made the difficult decision to give up my position as the student spirit chair for the Association of Student Alumni. On some level, I felt like I was letting the organization down, but mostly I felt it was the right decision and a huge relief. The president of the group appreciated my honesty and agreed I shouldn’t be doing something when I couldn’t fully commit. They found a great replacement for me, and I’ll remain involved as a general member — no hard feelings.

From the experience, I learned nobody is forcing me to commit to all these things. People are understanding and want me to be successful.

This month, I’m committing to not overextend myself and listen to myself when I know that I am.

Nobody knows better than I do how hard it is to say no, but everyone should feel empowered to turn things down. I know I am not alone in this. As Lehigh students, we are naturally passionate and participatory. It’s obvious through so many existing clubs and organizations, and students are still starting new ones each year.

So, dear reader, I invite you to join me this month and practice saying “no.” Of course, try new things and explore all your various interests, but choose just a few things to fully commit to and know it’s OK to not do it all.

Attempting to “do it all” and overcommitting yourself can have negative effects on your health. According to an article from Seattlepi, poor time management can lead to chronic procrastination, declining academic performance, lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits.

Twenty percent of men and women in the United States are chronic procrastinators, said Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, in an interview with the American Psychological Association.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports 40 million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by age 22. It also cites a 2008 survey of college students by the Associated Press and mtvU that reports 80 percent of college students say they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress, 34 percent have felt depressed at some point in the past three months, 13 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as an anxiety disorder or depression and 9 percent have seriously considered suicide in the past year.

Of course, big problems like depression and anxiety are not solely caused by over extension, but it does play a role in these issues. The good news is overcommitting is something we can control — we just have to commit to it.

Emily Linderman, ’19, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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