Ever had that sense that you were “in over your head?”   That you maybe have too much going on, with expectations too high, and challenges too deep…to really feel confident that you weren’t going to hurt yourself or disappoint someone?  I’ve been there and still periodically find myself there.

For me a couple of things are really important.  I like to investigate “what’s going on to cause these feelings?”  and secondly, “so, what am I going to do about it?”

Recently I began to feel  a sense of foreboding coming up in my soul.  I was looking at the day(s) in front of me and really not excited about the events nor the opportunities.  In fact, I was looking to withdraw and avoid.  As I thought about it a part of it was simply physical exhaustion stemming from too little sleep and too many nights of poor sleep.  One night of bad sleep can slow you down but when you accumulate them in a series you feel like you’ve filled your snowplow full and just can’t move any more.  Understanding that issue doesn’t solve the future but it helps to understand the present reality.  There’s an old Billy Joel tune entitled “You’re Only Human” and he talks of the load a friend is carrying.  His summary is “you’re only human, you’re supposed to feel that way”.    Weariness wears us down.  (By the way, don’t use this last paragraph as incentive to go have a nap.  Read on!)

Sometimes your load feels too full because your load is  too full.  Whether you’ve been away and things have piled up, or you’ve been distracted and things piled up, or you’ve been procrastinating and things have piled up, the same result is there—things have piled up.  The old truck is groaning because the load is too heavy on the springs.  It’s good to make the effort to look through the things and figure out just what you can do over the next little while to undo the pile.

Here’s what I do—I actually list out the things that are part of my life.  I write them out in clear, describable, actioning phrases.  It’s good to clarify what exactly I am involved with and to see it in terms of what it takes to complete it.   I then look at the availability I have and make a list of up to 5 things I can get done.  I rarely take all 15 or 20 because that is what is part of the overwhelming.  I pick off 5 and say–this I can get done.  And I do my best to get them done.

I realize there are a ton of other things to do, but I can’t do them all.  I’ll get to them.   And eventually I do, even if it takes a couple of days or longer to get caught up.

There’s all kinds of help out there to help.   Covey has some great stuff about “urgent, important, necessary etc”.  I don’t use his material as diligently as some but it can be helpful.  “Daytimer” has some time management tools which have a similar approach.   For me I try to identify where the logs are on the pile and start pulling them off.  You move a few and it’s amazing how the pile begins to unjam itself.  But you have to move a few to get it moving.

I have found that doing nothing gets nothing done.

PS  here is something else, if you are a sensitive soul, some of your anxiety comes in knowing/thinking that somebody out there is angry or disappointed in you.  Maybe they are.   But, if you let their disappointment overrule your own personal satisfaction then you really are hooped.  Generate some personal satisfaction by getting something done.  Let them handle their own feelings.

PPS maybe the root of your anxiety isn’t in the volume of your list.  Maybe it’s in the nature of the things on your list?  For instance, if you are going through a rough relational situation or two, you may not have 20 things that bury you, you only need the one or two.  Same truth still stands, you can’t overrule someone else’s feelings, but you can affect your own. Do something contributive and productive in the relationship from your end and then let tomorrow be another day.  You may have to do something productive and contributive again tomorrow, but you have taken care of your business for today.

Doing nothing gets nothing done.