EdusalsaDiscover Your Stanford
  • Posted 7 years ago


The Overcommitment Trap

Building the freedom to handle life as it comes.

By Tucker Leavitt

Life at Stanford is busy. Opportunities and resources abound, and the kind of people that end up at Stanford tend to take full advantage of those resources, often to the point of excess. Think about that friend you have who’s enrolled in 22-units, volunteers with three different student groups, works in a lab part time, and plays the clarinet in the orchestra. Think about how difficult it can be to schedule lunch around a friend’s busy schedule, and think about how the difficulty of scheduling a meeting seems to grow exponentially with the number of people who are in it. Worst of all, think about all the cool one-off events you’ve had to miss because you had an assignment to finish or prior commitment to attend to.

Why do we overcommit ourselves like this? I think the problem is two-fold.

Firstly, as hopeful, starry-eyed college students striking out to discover the world and ourselves, we often bite off more than we can chew simply out of interest. At Stanford we are constantly presented with a wide assortment of opportunities, each of which seems interesting and attention-worthy. Oftentimes it is easier to simply pursue all the available opportunities instead of undergoing the painful task of choosing between them.

The second, and more troubling, reason we often overcommit ourselves is our fear of uncertainty. Boredom sucks, and when one is surrounded by so many high-achieving peers, sitting idle can sometimes make you feel that you’re slipping behind. Empty slots in our calendar scare us, so we try to minimize them. We frontload on classes and activities, trying to guarantee ahead of time that we’ll always have something to do.

But the universe doesn’t run on a Google calendar; opportunities and events often arise unexpectedly. If your schedule is already full to the brim, you won’t have the capacity to handle life’s curve balls. Yes, dealing with the uncertainty of having no plans can be intimidating, but it gives us the freedom to handle life as it comes and the resources to attend to the activities we keep more fully.

In collaboration with Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi is the only honor society representing the entire engineering profession across the nation. Their chapter at Stanford strives to promote academic excellence, leadership, and continued service to the larger engineering community. They host events and organize initiatives including peer mentoring, K-12 outreach, alumni panels, CEO dinners, project fairs and more. For more info, check out

Tucker Leavitt

Tucker is an Engineering Physics major specializing in Computational Science, which means he has a lot of different interests. You'll often find him zapping things with high-voltage capacitor banks or hacking the group chats for the various music groups he's a part of.

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