I'm working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone's project will look different, but it's the rare person who can't benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now.
When I hear people talking about feeling overwhelmed, two tasks come up over and over: clearing out email and reading back issues of magazines.
Let's focus on the magazines.
If you feel guilty and overwhelmed because you have a huge stack of unread magazines cluttering your living room or engulfing your bedside table -- get rid of them! Put them in the recycling bin right now!
Sometimes it's not realistic to think that you're going to "catch up." When are you going to feel like reading 30 issues of the New Yorker?
Maybe, like the Big Man, you're saving a stack of The New York Review of Books to read on an airplane. Maybe, like my mother, you're saving a stack of Architectural Digest to use as inspiration. Or maybe you have to read a certain magazine for work, or you take a positive joy in your collection. Fine.
But if you're feeling guilty about a big stack of magazines that you read "for fun," get rid of them. Start fresh. You're supposed to be reading them for enjoyment, and if you're feeling defeated by the backlog, you're not enjoying yourself. Sure, you may miss some interesting material, but the sense of oppression just isn't worth it.
Because we subscribe to so many magazines (25 different magazines, at last count, and three newspapers), I have a strict periodicals policy. We never keep a newspaper overnight, and we never keep a magazine for more than two months, for a monthly, or two weeks, for a weekly.
On a related note, consider storing current magazines out of sight. I keep ours in a dedicated drawer. Most people display magazines on coffee tables or in special magazine racks, but I've never understood this. Magazines make a room look cluttered. I keep ours hidden.
I devised a trick that helps us keep our magazines in check: the ripped cover. Because the Big Man and I read many of the same magazines, I hesitated to throw them away after I'd read them, because I didn't know if he'd read them. Now, when one of us has read an issue, we rip the bottom of the front cover in half. That way, each of us knows if the other is done with it. It has an added benefit: sometimes I'd grab a magazine for the gym or the subway, only to realize too late that I'd already read it. Now, if it's ripped, I know to check to make sure I haven't read it before.
One of my Twelve Commandments is "Let it go." Recognizing when it's time to let go of a goal or a task is hard for me to do, but always worth thinking about.
Have you found any other simple ways to cure yourself of feeling overwhelmed?