March 03, 2016

Are You Taking On Too Much? by Steph Beth Nickel

This post first appeared on Janet Sketchley’s blog on Friday, February 26, 2016. I then tweaked it slightly for "This & That for Writers." I have reworked it yet a third time to fit with this month's InScribe theme: dealing with the business side of writing.

I usually have my post to Janet well ahead of the deadline, but not this month. In fact, I needed a nudge—even though I had a reminder in my day planner. Sometimes that just isn’t enough.

I have recently started covering for our church administrator while she’s on maternity leave. I enjoy the job, but it does leave me scrambling because of the other responsibilities I am also juggling.

Just how can we determine if we should take on any given task? Here are six things you may want to consider the next time someone asks, “Oh, could you …” or the next time you come across a "writers simply must do this" promotion.

Pray About It
As a Christian this may seem self-evident, but how many times do we take on something without asking the Lord for wisdom? We can’t do all the things that are asked of us or apply all the writerly wisdom we hear about. 

Evaluate the Task
How long will it take? Does it fit naturally into our schedule? Will we have to set aside something that should remain a priority? Will it hinder our ability to fulfill our current tasks effectively? Will it steal the downtime that is crucial to our mental and emotional well-being?

Give Something Up
I once heard a speaker say she never took on a new task without setting aside one she was already doing. Talk about self-control! I can’t see myself doing this—at least not yet. And as writers, we are told to keep writing ... while building our platform ... and finding an agent or publisher. If we go the indie route, there are the issues of cover design, ebook formatting, and the tax implications of publishing with a "foreign" company such as And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Something definitely has to give.

Remember … No is Not a Bad Word
Some of us have difficulty saying no when we’re asked to do something. We don’t want to let the other person down. We don’t want to miss an opportunity God has for us. This is another key reason we need to pray before we take on a task. God promises to give wisdom to those who ask. 

Plus, He will give us the ability to graciously decline if that’s what’s necessary. We must remember, too, that it is His responsibility to deal with how the other person responds. We shouldn’t buckle under pressure if we are confident God has not called us to a specific task—at least not at this time. 

And I find the same is true about the aforementioned "writerly wisdom." I can easily get weighed down if I listen to the voices that insist I must do such and such if I'm ever to be considered a serious writer.

Consult Your Spouse or a Trusted Friend
If it’s going to put a strain on the relationship with our spouse, it’s likely best to beg off. I have such an easygoing hubby sometimes I don’t think to ask him what he thinks of a particular decision. He is always gracious and never makes me feel bad about making up my own mind, but I really should keep him in the loop … and not always after the fact. And whether we’re married or not, a trusted friend can often give us a perspective we can’t see because we’re just too close to the situation.

While our friend or spouse may not be a writer, they are often a good judge of how something is affecting us. They can help us decide whether a given activity is moving us toward our goals and if the price is worth the effort. (If your spouse and your BFF don't support your writing, it may be time to develop relationships with fellow writers who understand the process and can give you encouragement and advice.)

Finally … Pray Some More
Sometimes we take on something and it’s good for a season, but we just keep doing it even after that season is over. Praying over our schedule regularly is a good habit to get into. As I’ve often said, no matter how much I love my lists, the only To Do list that really matters is the one God has prepared for me. And the only way to discover what’s on that list is to dig into His Word and pray—lots!

So … are you taking on too much? Why not review these pointers and make changes to your To Do list as needed. I just may have to do the same.


  1. Excellent thoughts Steph. I'm sure most of our readers have this tendency to take on too many things at once.

  2. I echo Tracy's thoughts. You have listed some excellent points to ponder. All are key factors, but prayer is the most crucial. God will show us what to take on and how to go about it.

  3. Anonymous8:52 am GMT-7

    I'll slow down, then feel uncomfortable, and then start filling up my time again. It it is a 'crazy cycle' and must remember to pray BEFORE I decide. Thank you!

  4. I agree that we need to pray about the requests for our time that keep popping up. Our main questions is, "Lord, is this something you want me to do?" Prayer should be foremost, but sometimes I jump into the deep end without doing this or taking stock of what is also on my list. Why do I still struggle with saying, No? My husband reminds me that this is a legitimate response.

    Your blog is timely for me, Steph, and I do appreciate your checklist about evaluating the last--a step I have been know to skip. For many of us, your question, "Will it steal the downtime that is crucial to (my) mental and emotional well-being?" is critical.

    Thank you for this blog.

  5. Wise words! Even three times over!


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