How to Avoid Overscheduling Yourself as a Sensitive Introvert

Schedule time to rest. Just like a car needs refueling, you can’t keep going non-stop without a break or you’ll burn out.

My ideal day starts with a slow, quiet rise, maybe with a sun lamp in the winter months to ease into the natural light. Some gentle stretching is ideal, too, as I begin my morning routine, which would include some casual reading or light yoga. I’d flow smoothly through a day filled with maybe two or three major things before winding down in the evening with an early bedtime…

But, sadly, that’s not my reality. 

Instead, my day starts with a five-year-old bounding into my room, followed closely by the sounds of a three-year-old whose noises could easily be mistaken for those of a wild monkey. I wrangle us all together through getting dressed and in and out of the bathroom, and then herd them downstairs for breakfast like crazy sheep. 

The rest of our day is pretty similar and ends just as chaotically. 

Maybe your day isn’t filled with wild monkey children, but more like unhinged bosses and feral coworkers. Maybe you’re running the latest charity drive and heading up 10 different events at once this week. Or maybe you’re trying to run a business, salvage your marriage, and make nice with great Aunt Edna. 

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Learn to Put Yourself First and Stop Overscheduling Yourself 

Wherever you find yourself in life, if you are a highly sensitive introvert, the busyness of it all (whatever “it all” is for you) can feel overwhelming and never-ending. For introverts, the social aspect of our lives can be draining and challenging to manage. As highly sensitive people, the sheer overstimulation of our daily lives can lead to burnout if we’re not careful. The combination of the two is, well, a lot

One thing is for sure: We cannot be our own worst enemies. We have to stand in the face of busyness and say, “No thank you.” We need to stand in our — albeit sensitive — power and say, “We will not be doing all the things with all the people all the time.” 

Let’s take some time to figure out how to approach our schedules differently. To stop overscheduling and overcommitting, and to stop leaving ourselves out. Here are a few tips to help you avoid overscheduling yourself, especially as a highly sensitive introvert.

5 Ways to Avoid Overscheduling Yourself as a Sensitive Introvert 

1. Get really picky about what gets your time and attention.

If you don’t want to end up drowning in activities, social events, shuttling kids from here to there, and never having a fraction of a second to catch your breath, then you need to get really picky about your calendar. (Side note: Start by getting a calendar if you don’t already have one. Not having a central place to pencil things in will have you running around like, well, I’m sure you can imagine.) 

Then, start getting super selective about what gets put on the calendar. Don’t be a “yes” person (you know, when you absent-mindedly say “yes” to everything to please everyone without thinking about how soul-crushingly busy it’s going to make you). Practice pausing before saying yes. Or say something like, “That sounds great! Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Believe it or not, you are allowed to draw that boundary and not let other people’s invites force you into a rushed response. After all, highly sensitive people aren’t fans of time anxiety.

2. Don’t be a do-it-yourself-er. Instead, ask for help.

Okay, I just made that up, but seriously, do not try to do everything yourself. You do not have to show up to everything for everyone all the time. Enlist the help of others — whether it’s to help support your kids in their activities or to lighten your load by doing a few things on your to-do list for you. Send the spouse to the grocery store, ask grandma to take little Sally to soccer practice, politely tell neighbor Jane that your family won’t be at this year’s neighborhood block party (and no, you will not be making potato salad for her). 

Just a friendly PSA to parents: It doesn’t always have to be you showing up to band practice or swim meets or baseball games. Our kids will not feel any less loved when a grandparent or uncle or aunt or any other supportive grown-up shows up while you’re doing something else. In fact, research even shows that the more caring, loving adults in their lives, the better! Lean into that.

Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?

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3. Know what things will fill you up and what things will drain you.

That might sound like a no-brainer, but how often have you gone off to do something that sounded fun, but at the end, left you exhausted and wishing you hadn’t gone? In our fast-paced life, there’s not always room for introspection and reflection, but as introverts and sensitive people, we need those things. Not only do they help us process our thoughts and feelings, but it helps us be able to identify which things “fill us up,” so to speak, and which things deplete us. 

The more we take time to consider what activities fall into either of those categories, the easier (and quicker) we will be at knowing when to say yes and when to say no (or when to enlist the help of someone else). Once you have a firm grasp on that, try to focus on the things that fill you up and delegate the others. You can do that for upcoming events and invites, as well as things already on your calendar, like an energy audit.  

4. Put yourself on your calendar.

This one is so, so, so important. Make sure that you get scheduled each day. I know it’s hard when things get busy and everyone needs a piece of your time. But if you are overscheduled, overstimulated, burnt out… you will be no good to anyone. 

Schedule time on your calendar to refuel. At some point, like your car, you’ll need to stop for gas, even if you want to just keep pushing through to get to your destination as fast as possible. But if you run out of gas, you’ll never get anywhere.  

Because we can’t always say “no” to everything (wouldn’t that be nice?), we know we’ll need some alone time to recover. Some time to decompress, to process, to breathe and reset. You deserve a spot on your own calendar. Don’t forget to stop for gas. 

5. Put your calendar on your calendar.

Yep, you read that right — put your calendar on your calendar. One great hack, if you will, is to have a specific time each day that you look at your calendar. This is when you respond to all the invites, coordinate the events, figure out who’s taking Sally to soccer, and which tasks you can delegate (and figure out when you’ll be stopping for gas). I like to spend a bigger chunk of time on this at the beginning of the week and then just a few moments each morning. 

Doing this will help you see clearly how much is on your plate and make it easier to know which things need delegating and what you can ask for help with. It will also keep you from responding to invites on the fly (“Let me check my calendar and get back to you”) and lower the level of overwhelm often associated with our crazy schedules. 

Sometimes we think we have more time than we do and it’s easy to just say yes to whatever comes up. But keeping the calendar in front of you will help you stay focused and avoid overscheduling

You Are Worthy of a Schedule Full of Downtime

Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to put ourselves on the calendar, especially when that means we have to say no to someone else. But from one sensitive introvert to another, I’d like to take this moment to remind you, you are worth it! You are worthy of all the downtime you need in order to show up for everyone else in a way that feels good. No matter how hard it feels at the beginning, know that it does get easier. 

And the more you prioritize yourself on that calendar, the better you’ll be able to show up when it matters, in a way that is effective and loving and powerful. Everyone wins when that happens. 

So go on — and don’t forget to stop for gas.

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