I just wrote out my to-do list. It’s way, way too long. I have too many things I’m supposed to accomplish today!
One of them is writing this article.
We’re taught, “Prioritize your list,” but here’s the problem. Everything on my list is a “top priority.” Staring at it, I think to myself, “No. I can’t do this!” Have you ever felt that way?
If you do, you’re a normal human. We all get overwhelmed. Sometimes we’re doing great at work but feel totally swamped by things outside of work — our kids’ activities, our parents’ health, or a stack of bills.
Sometimes things at home are manageable, but work is stressing us out. Maybe there’s a new leader who pushes extra hard. Maybe your team has a big project due soon, or you’ve just learned your organization might be sold.
When I’m overwhelmed, my natural tendency is to work feverishly at everything and do all I can do. I’m fast — I can accomplish a lot. I’ll just work more hours on whatever it is that needs me. I may ask for help from my team or family, but that’s not always an option.
When you’re overwhelmed, do you do what I do?
I hope not! I’ve learned my process is flawed. It’s not an effective approach — it only leaves me tired and frustrated. Unfortunately, it took me many years to discover a better way to do things.
It works better when I first spend time in prayer about the list and then work to accomplish all I can. After that, I let God worry about the rest. That’s not always easy for me because, too often, I take pride in my self-reliance. Maybe you can relate.
Thankfully, I learned something that put my to-do list in perspective this week. I’m blessed to be in an excellent BBT Bible study (learn more about BBT here). Last week, we talked about our “twenty-four inches” — the area that defines our responsibility.
Imagine a sergeant on a battlefield, saying, “Defend your twenty-four inches!” In other words, everyone must do his or her job — take care of their own twenty-four-inch space — and let the leaders worry about everything else.
Similarly, you might think about a basketball coach telling each team member to focus on their assignment to the best of their ability.
Our discussion was a great reminder: I shouldn’t try to do God’s job (I’m not very good at it anyway). My job each day is to do all I can, then rest and let God worry about everything else.
I often feel the way the children of Israel did when facing an overwhelming army:
“’… For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.’” This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’”
2 Chronicles 20:12&15
On my own, I’m powerless to deal with everything that comes at me. But when I unleash the power of God and let him take over the battle, it’s amazing what I can accomplish with His help.
When you’re overwhelmed, start with prayer. Then, let God help you do things you can’t do on your own.