Email and Task Overwhelm: Part 1
By Ike Lasater and Julie Stiles
Ever sat in front of your email or task management program and felt overwhelmed? Too many emails, too much to do…where do you start?
Both of us have been confronting this issue recently. I (Ike) mostly find it when I go to my email. When I’m in a certain state I feel like I do not have the resources and resiliency to respond to perceived challenges, or “incoming” as aikido teacher Wendy Palmer calls it.
My email becomes the challenge and the thought that I need to read and respond to all these people causes me to cringe inside. I shy away. I was raised around horses as a boy, and if a horse sees something they are afraid of, they shy away from it; you cannot get them to move toward it. I get that same sense inside of myself; I pull away and just can’t get myself to go toward reading my email.
I’m afraid of opening up and reading email and having my ability to deal with them be overwhelmed, and that anxiety makes me shy away from even looking at email. If I do manage to get myself to open email, I might pull away from certain emails that I don’t want to deal with, those where I feel a dread and heaviness when I look at the subject line. Time makes it worse because, of course, emails do not exactly stop coming when I’m in this state. Before I know it, I have 600 emails in my inbox.
I (Julie) experience a similar pattern; it comes up around both email and my task list, but I’ll focus on my task list. When I look at my list of things I need or want to do, I feel myself internally begin to turn away, much as Ike described his “shying” away. I want to do them all (or I would not have bothered putting them on the list) or I need to do them to avoid negative consequences I don’t like.
But there are too many; I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number and the amount of time they would take. It seems impossible to do them all. I have no sense of how to choose or where to start. Of course, since I constantly add more things I need or want to do, the problem just continues to get worse.
I then avoid dealing with my task list at all because I don’t like the feeling I have when I look at it. I become reactive, dealing with the immediate things that I know need to be dealt with, but not tracking much else. Certainly, I’m not proactively planning to move toward the things I want, and I lose sight of what’s important to me.
We are exploring various approaches—from the systematic to the esoteric—to working with this issue and will be sharing them in a series of upcoming posts. We’d love to hear from you—if you experience something similar when you look at your email or task list, what have you tried?
Posted: May 10th, 2011 under Uncategorized.