How to Know You’re Taking on Too Much and How to Solve It

October 6, 2020

minute READ 

Merlin clearly had taken on too much.

When he wasn’t busy working his two full-time jobs, communicating with a pyromaniac dragon, or trying to stay alive in a kingdom where his magic was punishable by death, he was secretly keeping his boss alive from the biweekly assassination attempt.

It made for rather short nights and rather full days.

While the protagonist of BBC’s show Merlin (yepp, named after the legendary sorcerer) is a bit of a caricature, he makes for a good case study of someone who is habitually taking on too much. 

After all, there are times in life when we all feel like there are way more balls in the air than we have hands. The question is, how can you identify those times before you burn out or drop the balls?

Well, here are six signs that you’re taking on too much:

Warning Signs:

  • You’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Your life is a never-ending string of chores.
  • You can’t recall the last time you got to take a full day off.
  • You’ve stopped doing things for fun because you don’t have the time.
  • You’re less patient than usual with people around you.
  • You’re running from one task to the next.

Your "TOTM" score:

For each statement that is true for you right now, give yourself one point on the “TOTM” (taking on too much) scale.

I would say that Merlin scores a solid 5.5 on the scale (I’m not sure how impatient he is with others).

How high is your score?

If it’s above 2, I would highly suggest that you address it. Let’s explore how.

What to do if you’ve taken on too much:

1. Stop doing non-essential things

Some of the balls you have up in the air might be optional. Identify what those are and put them done.

For instance, when I did this exercise, one of my optional balls was a weekly virtual game night with friends and acquaintances. I didn’t have to be there and given how much I had going on I wouldn’t even have enjoyed it that much. So, I let people know that I couldn’t make it.

2. Implement the Pareto-principle

According to the Pareto-principle, 20% of your actions will give you 80% of the results. Identify the 20% that will give you most of the results. Then, stop doing the remaining 80%.

For instance, when it comes to finding new clients, writing follow-up emails is super-effective. Simply by checking in with someone who has previously indicated their interest in hiring me as a coach, I can grow my business quite easily. Writing follow-up emails is part of the 20%.

On the other hand, I don’t think I have ever gotten a client through my podcast. Doing a podcast was part of the 80% of tasks that only brought me meager results which is why it was one of the first things I stopped doing when I had too much going on.

3. Ask for help

This suggestion is probably pretty self-evident. Look at all the balls that are up in the air and see which ones someone else could juggle for you. Then, ask for help.

For instance, when I had too much going on, I asked my husband to go grocery shopping on his own (as opposed to us two going together). That by itself saved me a solid hour of my time. 

4. Say no to requests

People often end up with too much on their plate if they don’t say no to requests from others. The obvious solution to that? Don’t do that.

Sometimes, that might mean that you literally have to say “no” (if you’re being asked specifically) whereas other times, you just have to refrain from saying “yes” to a request.

For instance, in a group I’m in, a writer recently asked for feedback. While I’d like to help, I just don’t have the bandwidth right now. Since the person asked the entire group (not me specifically), I didn’t even have to say no, I just had to refrain from saying yes.


By implementing these 4 steps, you can lower your “TOTM”-score. Try these suggestions for a week and then see if your score has gotten a bit lower!

Unlike Merlin, you and I don’t have the fate of the entire world on our shoulders. So there's no reason to take on more than we can handle. 

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About the author

Bere is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Bere loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at

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