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Pause Five Seconds Before You Commit To Anything


Some people have a tough time saying no to things.  Their default answer is to say yes to everything.  I am not saying it is bad to be a “Yes man” but it can really cost you in time and sanity if you over commit.  I was really bad at saying yes to too many things, so I started to use this little mantra.  This short mantra is easy to remember but hard to remember before you actually need it.  The major challenge here is that you only have a split second or two to remember it.  You have to stop, take a breath, think about the request, and answer.  But if you can remember and execute it, you will be a big step ahead of not putting too many things on your plate.

Why Do We Over Commit

The problem, for many people, including myself, is that we want to be involved.  We want to do good in this world and give back when we can.  It could be we are signing up for something because it will put more money in our pockets.  Or it may be that volunteering and giving back to the community will make us feel better about ourselves.  No matter your motivation, the end result is clear.  You end up with too much to do and too little time.  Sacrificing other commitments in your life to make more money or do something good.  Whatever the motivation is, it is crucial to remember this mantra and slow down to think.

The Knights of Columbus Pause

One of the times that I did remember this mantra was about a year ago at a Knights of Columbus (KoC) meeting.  It was time for nominations for yearly elections and I was asked if I could be the Recorder for the meetings.  The KoC needs people to volunteer to continue doing the great work that we do.  This is an opportunity to  step up and do a good thing.  But I remembered, “Pause five seconds before you commit to anything.”  That five seconds gave me just enough time for my mind to remind me that my plate is full. This would add more work and requirements to my already busy life, and I am not confident I can make all the meetings. This was especially true since this was my first year committing to attend the meetings.  I thanked them for the opportunity, but let them know I did not have the bandwidth in my life to take on something new.

I also mentioned that I am just getting involved more in the meetings.  I wanted to see how things run before I hop in feet first.  Of course they tried to convince me.  This is when I remembered that I have overcommitted in the past and have done half-assed jobs because of it.  I told them I wanted to do my best for them and that I simply cannot commit right now.  With everything I have going on in my life right now, I did not want to bite off more than I can chew.  They understood and said they will get me next year…hehe.

*** As a side note…they got me this year.  I am now the Warden for the KoC.  I paused my five seconds when asked and said I needed time to consider the request.  I went home, thought on it a week, and decided I was able to take this on at this time.  They were happy with my decision and so was I.

Final Thoughts

The simple goal here is to only have the things in your life that you want to do, have time to do, and can do well.  By pausing five seconds before responding, you give your brain some time to think.  This is a chance to remember your current commitments and question if you have time to add anything else.  When you hear questions that start with, “Could you…” or “Would you mind…” let that be a trigger to this mantra.  Take a breath, pause, and show you are giving the request careful consideration.  After you have had a few seconds to think, ask them more questions, and buy some time. After you pause for five seconds, either give them your answer, or say you need more time to consider the request.

There is nothing wrong with saying no, knowing your limits, and wanting to do your best.  That five second pause is all the time you need to consider the request.  At the least, it will buy your brain enough time to inquire more about the request before you simply sign up. 

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