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Law of Productivity #2: You Can’t Do it All

More Productive You: A Guide To Living Well | Kristy's Cottage blog

Have you ever tried to take on too much?

I have.

Over-commitment, burn out, and time management… 

Those are three topics I want to tackle this week at the blog.

But first… 

Today is our second “chapter” in More Productive You: A Guide To Living Well

Click the More Productive You tab on the blog menu (or just click here) to read more about this series.

7 Surprising Habits of Productive Women | by Kristy Howard

Nearly five years ago, I learned a really hard lesson about this “you can’t do it all thing.” 

As a “type-A” woman, I tend to have a hard time gauging the reality of what I can and can’t accomplish in this busy season of life I’m living.

I sort of went for broke with a few too many projects.

It all culminated one fateful August. 

In a seven-day period, I

  • launched a pretty big writing project (this ebook) that included ten other bloggers
  • organized, coordinated and hosted a women’s retreat at our church
  • took care of a newborn (my fifth child)
  • homeschooled my kids

Do you know what else I did? 

I got really sick.

I mean “sick” as in, I couldn’t get out of bed for days.

It took me months to recover from that over-extension of myself. 

I’d like to say that I learned a really important lesson that August, but the truth is… I didn’t.

I repeated the same workaholic-paced lifestyle until I ran my health into the ground again exactly two years later.

I did learn a lesson then, and I’ve been a recovering “momaholic” (the mom-version of a workaholic) ever since.

You see, I’m not writing this More Productive You because I think it has a nice ring to it. 

Specifically, I’m not writing this post, You Can’t Do it All, because I heard the idea somewhere and thought I’d create a blog post out of it.

I’ve lived this.

I’ve learned this.

Most times, the hard way.

This law, You Can’t Do it All, can be hard. 

For the over-achiever, it can feel hard to accept.

And it’s definitely hard to swallow the consequences when you “break” this law.

I feel like there are a few things that inevitably happen when we over-commit as women. 

You Can't do it All | 31 Days to a More Productive You | KristysCottage.com

We Cheat Ourselves.

Cheat ourselves out of

  • sleep,
  • peace of mind,
  • joy
  • and a lot of other key elements of life.

Now, I realize that any productive woman is going to get in “the grind” sometimes. 

I’ve been in “the grind” as a

  • pastor’s wife
  • mom (hello, newborn baby!)
  • home educator
  • mompreneur and blogger

Sure, we get in “the grind” sometimes. 

But if we choose to live in “the grind”, we are going to cheat ourselves.

Big time.

I haven’t found a way to outsmart this law of productivity.

It always has the last say, eventually.

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We Cheat Those We Love.

I’ll be really honest: 

When I’m in “the grind,” a lot of important things don’t happen at my house:

  • I can’t get meals on the table for my family.
  • Homeschooling falls by the way side.
  • My kids don’t get much from me.
  • My husband gets even less.

Is that the way I want to live? 

No way.

But that’s exactly what happens when I choose to constantly over-commit.

Others Get Cheated.

Another confession:

I can’t do my best when I’m trying to do too many things.

That’s one of the reasons why I don’t post to this blog every day, although there’s honestly nothing I love to do more than writing.

I know I’ll be cheating my family out of my time every day, and that’s one of the reasons.

But I also know I can’t churn out quality content seven days a week.

Quality work takes time, no matter what the niche or job description.

You don’t come here looking for hastily-thrown-together words, just like I don’t go to a furniture store in search of cheap goods.

Over-committing cheapens my productivity. 

That’s not an exchange I’m willing to make.

That’s why-

I’m intentional about what classes, events and projects I commit to as a pastor’s wife.

I’m intentional about where I volunteer or hire out my skills.

I’m intentional about how often I enroll our kids in extracurricular activities, no matter how wonderful they are.


Because I want to live well. 

(Remember that “priority grid” we created in You Can’t Have it All?)

When I over commit, I cheat others because I’m having to do everything in a huge hurry.

This second law of productivity, You Can’t Do It All, will either set you up for

  • focus and achievement, or
  • frustration, exhaustion and burn out.

Let’s talk about burn out.

That second fateful August (the one that happened after the first fateful August) found me living in a state of burn out.

After days of not being able to get out of bed and running a low grade fever, I finally went to a local Care Now clinic.

The doctor did a bunch of blood labs and ran scans for about an hour.

Finally, he came back into my room, where I sat shivering from chills.

I could feel my heart race a million-miles-a-minute.

Not just because I was anxious (although I was), but because I had heart palpitations nearly 24/7.

“Well, young lady,” he said slowly.  “I honestly thought I’d be telling you that you have mono, or some kind of illness that requires bed rest.  But, honestly, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with you.  Except that you’re fatigued and feel sick.  Your immune system is actually very strong.”

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I let out a little sigh of relief.

“I’m really glad to hear that,” I ventured, “but why do I feel too weak to get out of bed?  I have five kids.  I can’t live like this!”

“Well, let’s do some labs on your Thyroid,” he suggested, “but we also need to talk about your sleeping habits and what kind of stressors you’re dealing with.”

I went home that day with a humiliating diagnosis: 

I had worn myself completely out.

The bad news was, there wasn’t a cure anyone could give me. 

The good news was, I was both the problem and the cure. 

The Cure for Burn Out

It didn’t happen over night, but I began to make small changes in my lifestyle at that point. 

It began with cutting back on my projects and commitments.

And teaching myself the habit of sleeping at least eight hours at night (I was pulling numerous all nighters, trying to “be productive” and get everything done).

Later in this More Productive You  series, I’ll unpack more of the physical, emotional and spiritual habits I developed in my life as a results of that low point in my life.

For now, I want to simply focus on this unshakable law of productivity: 

You can’t do it all. 

If you consistently over-commit, overwhelm and burn out will eventually catch up with you.

It certainly caught up with me.

Over-commitment is never the life companion of productivity. 

Somewhere along the way, we must cultivate sustainable life habits.

On Wednesday, we’ll unpack some specific time management tips for

  • living well,
  • meeting goals,
  • and being truly productive.

You can drop me a comment here, or chat about your own experiences with over-commitment, burnout, or trying to “do it all” over in the group.

Next #motivationmonday, we’ll talk about You Can’t Please Everyone… yet another law of productivity that we can’t afford to ignore.

For now, I hope you’ll stick around the blog this week and help me unpack the remaining aspects of You Can’t Do it All.

Here’s to living well- 



P.S. If you haven’t already received a free copy of 7 Surprising Habits of Productive Women, please take a second to opt in to Kristy’s Cottage emails and get your free download right away.

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  1. Kristy, I thank God for directing me to your blog just months ago. I had been praying and searching for advice from another woman, specifically a Pastor’s Wife, someone I could relate to and glean much needed wisdom from. I have been sick now for a year or two, but since June of last year my symptoms have worsended and I am now waiting to see an
    Endocrinologist. My husband and I have 3 children, he works full time in management at our local hospital, he is seminary student, and we are in ministry to 3 churches. I have always loved to please people, but the stress of “making everyone happy” has left me very sick…exhausted, daily headaches, body aches, hair is thinning, and depressed for months now. My husband once called me “superwoman” and was always in awe of how I managed to do everything. I went from being very capable to now feeling incapable and very inadequate in managing even the simplest daily tasks.
    Whatever this illness is that I have, it has forced me to say “No” more and has humbled me…I have learned that I cannot and should not do it all. This year I am forced to reevaluate and reprioritze my life. Although I am sick right now…I feel relieved in a sense. Relieved from the pressures of trying to do it all.

    The ‘31 Days to a More Productive You’ is truly a gift.
    May God continue to bless you & your ministry,

    1. Tammy, I relate to so much of what you shared, and where you’re at right now. I know the difficult places well, and they are very hard for us “super women!” Even in the valley I found there is healing, grace, and restored strength… you will walk out of this valley one step at a time.

      It’s almost uncanny to me that you mentioned the stress of “trying to make everyone happy.” That is actually part of the title of our next post in the 31 Days to a More Productive You. (It will be live on the blog this coming Monday, January 22.)

      We are definitely on this journey together, and most importantly, our Heavenly Father is taking it step-by-step with us. I find much comfort and strength in knowing that!

      Thanks you so much for reading and commenting here, Tammy. It’s a honor to have you a part of this community.

      Blessings on your health and home, sweet sister.

      In Christ,

      1. Thank you so much Kristy for your encouragement. And I look forward to your upcoming blog posts. Blessings to you sweet sister ❤️