Nathan Peterson

A new (to me) way to handle task overwhelm

As I grow older, I often feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of my many roles — dad, husband, entrepreneur, artist, writer, marketer, neighbor, friend, fixer of broken water heater, broken van, broken bikes, broken toys…

Each role can feel like it requires 100% of my time, energy, and focus. And since all are important to me, I find myself in a constant state of overwhelm.

I see the lists of undone tasks and projects, of unmaintained belongings and relationships, of untouched ideas, and I feel shame. Why am I not better at this?

The thing is, this shame makes it worse. It drains my energy. And now I have an even smaller reservoir from which to give.

Most of my life, I've faced this kind of overwhelm with logic and grit. I write it all out. I prioritize. I color-code. Then I do what seems to be the most important thing. Then the next. Then the next. Until I collapse at the end of the day.

But the older I get, the older my kids get, and the more my heart's desire to serve others grows, the longer my lists become, and the more exhausted I become.

Am I alone in this?

How can one navigate this reality?

This week, I stumbled on an answer I want to explore:

When feeling overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks and responsibilities in life, rather than organizing, prioritizing, and systematically attacking every task, I need an entirely different approach.

And I'm not talking about "delete, delegate, do.” These kinds of tactics are powerful, but not sufficient.

I need something bigger than tactics. Something completely other. Like, a totally different brain!

Fortunately, I happen to have one. :)

Lists and systems are a left-brain activity. If I was to guess which side of my brain I've used to manage my roles in life until now, I would say for certain it is my left, logical brain.

Our logical brain is extremely powerful and useful. But it is only a part of who, and what, we are. And while it is powerful, it is limited. Kind of like AI — it is amazing what it can do, but it is clear what it cannot do: it cannot make something from nothing — that is the job of the right brain -- the intuitive, creative brain.

I've often ignored my intuitive brain and relied on my logical brain, especially when feeling overwhelmed. To me, overwhelm feels like a logical problem.

But what if this is actually a creative problem, requiring a creative solution?

What if the solution to my problem requires more than logic and grit? What if it requires a literal connection to supernatural, unexplainable insight, resources, and support? I believe it does.

I am trying to do the impossible in my life: to give more love and care and attention than I have to give. I'm trying to feed 5000 mouths with a few loaves and a couple of fish. How?? For the logical mind, this is impossible; for the creative mind, nothing is impossible.

I am starting to believe that the only way for me to be the father, husband, and human being I want to be is to hand over the wheel.

Will it work? I don't know. But I do know that the math simply doesn't work in favor of a logical approach. As much as I do love a good spreadsheet.

So how does this look in practice?

This week, I started a day with a long list of things to do. Many of them had uncertain outcomes. All were important. I didn't know where to start. Usually, this is where I would pull out the spreadsheet, start ranking tasks based on different criterion, and make a plan using every hour of the day efficiently.

This time, I decided to put the list aside, close my eyes and listen. I invited God to speak to my intuitive mind. To figure things out and let me know what to do next. Not a list. Just one thing.

A few minutes later I heard, "call your mom." So I called my mom.

Was it efficient? Depends on your definition of "efficient.”

Is doing a million unimportant things quickly efficient?

If I do everything there is to do but have not love, have I accomplished anything at all?

As a husband and father, my family's experience of me -- especially in 2024 -- has been of a man who has a lot to do and does his best to do it all. That's not the experience of a husband or father I want them to have. It's not the experience of living I want for myself, either.

And what's more, I'm not sure it works. I don't think it can. Ironically, the logical approach may not always be logical.

The task list will never end. It only grows -- in length, complexity, and importance -- the longer we live.

It's time to try something new:

Each day this week, I will start my work day by sitting in stillness and listening. I will wait until I hear what to do next, then do it. At the end of the day I will trust that it was enough.

I will allow my days to be led by trust and gratitude, rather than a relentless push to an imaginary finish.

Growing older means increased complexity, longer lists, and higher stakes. It does not have to mean higher levels of stress or sleepless nights. As we grow, as we mature, so can our perspective and our approach to life. We don’t have to try harder; we have to learn to approach life with a posture of rest, trust, and faith.

If you're up for trying this approach with me this week, please share your experience!

#family #intuition #overwhelm #trust