What is responsibility and when are you taking on too much?

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This almost started as a very “blamey” blog. I was going to write about my disappointment when I try to share responsibility with others and it fails, about how responsibility was forced on me at a young age, about how as one of life’s natural “takes responsibility people” and now acknowledging I make too much responsibility… I have no idea how to take less.

But, we can only control our piece of this world, we can not expect others to bend to our needs, we can not complain that the past is preventing our future (they are two separate things unless we choose to connect them), and well I imagine like most things in life I just need to learn, to try things and fail and try new things.

So with this new goal of balanced responsibility in mind I thought I would share some of my initial learnings.

Consider your motivates

If when you think about doing something, the main reasons you are doing it are…there is no one else to do it, it needs to be done well and you will do it best, or if you don’t do it you will let someone down. If these are your sole motives then it is worth questioning if you are doing the right thing.

Sometimes others need to fail to learn, sometimes you have to give people a chance before you can realise they would do a great job, sometimes if there is no one else that thinks it needs doing perhaps it does not need to be done. (Sometimes there are always exceptions but is worth checking in with yourself).

I would put a lot of pressure on myself and on those around me to be exacting in our tasks. One example was bed time for the children. Years ago I would get really stressed if they were late going to bed. I felt it was my responsibility to get them to bed on time and whether I was putting them to bed or so one else was, I would feel a mounting pressure as the clock ticked past that 7pm mark. I realised only I was driving this exacting window, no one else minded. So now I have a window of time I aim to get the youngest in bed between 7 and 8. It is a lot less stressful.

Time helping others is time well spent.

Sometimes it is hard to relinquish responsibility because the effort to invest in training or teaching someone else feels like it far out weighs the value of creating a little space. It is quicker and easier to just get the job done yourself.

If this is your only reason for doing a task it is definitely worth challenging yourself. Yes up front it may take some more time but ultimately it is worth the effort, not just for you but for the other person.

If I had not taught my daughter to tie her own shoe laces I would probably still be tying them for her now. Yes it took longer at the start, but it was worth it.

Say No

Probably one of the hardest things if you are a natural yes person in life, is to say no. if you realise you are doing something because you feel obligated, because you think it should be your job, because you feel if you don’t you will be letting people down and for little other reason say no.

I have had two big experiences of this in 2021, one of them I was asked to lead more classes at the uni I teach at part time. I knew they were in a jam and I wanted to help, but I also knew that the pressure of my full time job was mounting and that I did not want to over commit, and frankly I thought they could find someone better. It was a hard response as I think the guys I work with are fab but I said no.

Be willing to flex

Don’t just drop everything, it probably won’t do you any favours to just put everything down all at once. Look for natural windows to hand over some responsibility. And don’t give up trying, if the people you are giving responsibility too fail, then give them another chance. Though be mindful there may come a point in time when you have to take it back.

A good few weeks ago I asked my husband to take on the responsibility of taking our eldest to the doctors. She is under investigation for asthma and needed to go for a check up. Three times he failed to manage it, booking appointments and forgetting, not rebooking. I have decided it is an important enough task that I have to take it back, and have now booked the appointment myself. The tricky part is not feeling resentful or angry.

I hope you have a good balance of responsibility in your work and life. Do you have any other tips to recognise when you are taking on too much and what to do about it?

2 comments

  1. I think the best way to determine if I’m taking on too much—for me, at least—is to see if what I’m doing every day brings me closer to my main life goals. If yes, do more. If no, relook my day and responsibilities. Nice post. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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