Do They NEED Me? Or Just WANT Me?

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by daubiwan

Most people I know have bulging schedules. Between work, hobbies, volunteer commitments and family obligations, there are few days when most of us don’t have something to do. And yet people keep asking. It may be small things, or large projects. New activities pop up every day.

It’s time to take your schedule back. If you don’t take conscious control, someone else will. And that means examining the commitments.

So here is how to look at and judge new commitments:

Examining New Commitments

Look at what you’ve been asked to do. Sometimes small things can balloon into larger ones without warning.

For example, a request to stuff envelopes can turn into a year-long commitment if the original request is not framed properly. Were you asked to stuff envelopes for the school’s fall flyer this weekend? Or was it vague?

Things to look for: look for concrete tasks that take place on a specific day. Without these boundaries you may find yourself on the receiving end of a rapidly expanding commitment.

Do I Have Time?

Current volunteers get asked to take on new tasks for two reasons: they are known to the organizers by reason of their current commitments, and because they have a proven track record.

However, when you are asked to take on a new commitment, the requester does not know your current schedule or level of commitment. Only you have that information. You will also need to have an accurate estimate of how long the task will take, and your requester should have that information.

Things to look for: a vague timing on the request. If the requester doesn’t know how long it will take, you may find yourself with a much larger commitment than you bargained for.

Why Am I Being Asked?

One other thing to consider is why you are being asked. Is it that they really need you and your specific talents? Or is it because they need a body to fill a position. One of the difficulties of coordinating volunteers is that there are so many needs to be met, and there has to be bodies to fill the positions. So a willing body is better than no body, and a poor fit is better than an empty space.

Things to look for: ask what sort of skills the position involves, and then ask yourself if these are your strengths. It may be that you are a body, rather than being asked for your abilities.

What Will I Have To Give Up?

As always, when you say yes to something, you automatically say no to something else. That something else could be free time you might have spent watching television…or it might be family time. Always consider what you are giving up before you agree to a commitment.

Things to look for: knowing how long and when a commitment will take place will allow you to see if you will be sacrificing something that is more important to you. You might want to help at the school, but would you want to do it at the expense of your only evening at home with your children?

Adding things to your schedule can be done safely, if you consider all the things involved. Too vague of requirements or skill sets can spell trouble for those who wish to simplify their schedules.

Photo by daubiwan



  1. MM says

    I am overcommitted. There! I said it. And I know what my problem is: I can’t say “No”. But reading this post is going to be very helpful to me, especially this, which I intnd to use as my mantra “When you say yes to something, you automatically say no to something else”.
    Thank you!