Is your diary filling up and making you anxious? Do you feel overwhelmed by requests and invites? Coach Kate Tilston shows us the perfect method to help you reflect on your own needs before over-committing.

As a life coach, I come across many methods and ideas that don’t come straight out of a psychology textbook. Some of my best learnings have been from clients and the phenomenal coaches and mentors over the years who have added to my Kate Tilston “toolkit” of methods. RETREAT, REVIEW, REACT is one of those great examples. I was taught it by a counsellor and I’ve adapted it for my clients.

In this day and age, we are used to instant communication. Emails constantly pop up demanding our attention and social media asks us to interact on a minute-by-minute basis. Many of us feel we have to reply instantly or in the not-too-distant future – and by that I mean within the next hour!

How many of us read the emails that land in our inbox and ask ourselves, “Does this need a response right now, or can I get back to it?” I suspect most of us think that if we answer now it’s another thing out of the way, or we believe we won’t remember if we leave it until later.

This attitude doesn’t affect just emails. As things open up and we can start making plans, it’s incredible how quickly the diary fills up and we begin to feel overwhelmed by the number of commitments we have signed up for. The phone goes again and someone asks if we fancy doing something on a specific date. Before we know it, we have agreed without really checking our diary because that’s on our phone too now. It’s just easier to say yes and worry about it later.

This is where Retreat, Review and React come into play.

The Retreat, Review, React Method with Kate Tilston

Imagine this scenario. The phone rings, your friend suggests coffee on Saturday. You’d love to see her but you must also do a food shop and pick the kids up from a play date. Or maybe you have signed up and paid for a yoga class? You don’t want to sound ungrateful or mean but suddenly a sense of being overwhelmed engulfs you. You quickly say, “Great, what time?” knowing that you’ll spend the next few days worrying about how you’re going to fit it all in.

What if you were instead to say, “That sounds lovely – I need to check my diary and then I’ll give you a call back.”

RETREAT: Suggest to your friend that you need to go away and look at your diary and you will get back to them, hence giving yourself some space.

REVIEW: Look at your diary in your own time and ask yourself “Am I ready to go out on Saturday or am I committing to too much this weekend?” You consider the situation in your own time without the pressure of answering instantly.

REACT – this is your response. In this case, it might be a text or a call to the friend explaining that usually you’d have loved to go out but you already have a lot on at the weekend and need some time at home.

You might say, “I’m sorry, but I’ve had a look at the diary and this Saturday is busy. What about the following week, could you do then?”

This process gets you to slow down and think about what you want to commit to, rather than overpromising and exhausting yourself trying to please everyone. It works really well with people who struggle to communicate with certain people and need to stop and think about what to say before they react.

Taking the time to retreat, review and then react will leave you feeling a lot less overwhelmed and much less guilty for overcommitting and then putting yourself in the position of having to cancel. Both parties get a much better result.

You can apply this to so many things. When I feel swamped I use this as a mantra. By stepping back and giving myself the time (retreating) to decide whether my action serves me well (review) before making my decision and acting accordingly (react), my life has become a lot calmer and I find myself in far fewer situations where I feel overwhelmed.

Give it a go and see how it could impact your life. If you need to, leave little post-it notes around to remind yourself to take a breath and retreat. I think you’ll be amazed at the results.


Kate TilstonFor regular updates and inspiration from Kate Tilston, follow her on Instagram at @katetlifecoach or have a look at her website here.



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