Overwhelm is a funny thing.
I’m a list maker, always have been. I get great satisfaction out of crossing items off of a list. I have a two-sided rolling whiteboard in my office. While the back is for my annual planning calendar, the Big Picture stuff, the front side that always faces me is split into two lists: This Week and Longer Term. Every Monday morning (well, almost every Monday morning) I scrub off last week’s lists and write out this week’s lists. If I don’t get to my planning session till partway through the morning, and I’ve already accomplished some of the tasks for the week, I’ll still write them on the list — just so I can have the pleasure of stroking them off.
It’s a rare week indeed that I get everything crossed off my This Week list. Sometimes that’s deliberate: I’ll put a project phase on there, to remind me that I have to work on it this week — but the individual tasks in that phase are too small and too many to break out. Sometimes it’s not deliberate: I fully intend to Get This Thing Done, but business — or life — gets in the way, and I don’t finish the entire task.
The funny thing about overwhelm, though? Between one day and the next, my list doesn’t change much. But some days I head into my office first thing, and I look at the list, and I think, “oh, okay, I’ll be working on that today” and I feel good about what I accomplish that day, that week.
Then there are days when I walk into my office first thing, and I look AT THE SAME LIST, and I get this panicky feeling in my chest that no matter how fast I run, no matter how hard I work, I am falling behind and I will never catch up.
It’s the same list! Only my perception of it has changed.
My business coach has a mantra for me to work on: “Everyone is doing the best they can’ with the resources they have, at any given moment — including me”. I’m learning, honest. It’s a challenge for me, some days more than most.
I’m learning to acknowledge and celebrate what I DO accomplish, and calmly and dispassionately and without guilt inform the folks who need to know when a date has slipped. I’m learning to prioritize better, to recognize the difference between the urgent and the important. And I’m learning to ask for help and to outsource where and what I can.
I don’t believe, I CAN’T believe, that I am alone in this. So how do YOU deal with the ever-growing list? Tell me YOUR strategies for coping with overwhelm!