The Feeling That You’re Always Behind on Work

Stress at work

Posted: 01 Oct 2018 06:00 AM PDT

By Leo Babauta

Many of us have a constant neverending feeling that we’re always behind on what we need to get done.

We wake up and already have a sense that we’re behind, and the slight anxiety that comes with that sense causes us to jump into our day, checking messages and email, starting the treadmill of tasks and distractions and busyness that doesn’t end until we fall asleep.

How do we deal with this slight everpresent feeling of anxiety and this sense that we’re always behind on everything?

The answer comes, I believe, from slowing down, simplifying, and cultivating a sense of contentment.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Slowing Down

When we rush through the day, constantly doing small tasks and checking and responding to messages and running to distractions … we will always feel a slight sense of anxiety, because we are churning through things but feeling like we’re never getting anywhere. It’s a nonstop treadmill.

Slowing down is about pausing in the middle of the rush. Taking a breath. Creating a little space. Reflecting on what we’re doing. Finding a little mindfulness, being present with our bodies, breath and surroundings.

Then asking, “Is there really a need to rush to the next thing? Can I stay and be present with this one thing? Or do nothing for a little bit?”

Also ask if there’s really an imperative to be moving right now, to do everything. In truth, we create the problem of being behind — it’s not really true. It’s created in our minds, like all problems. Instead of allowing this problem to be solid and real, can we let it be less solid, like a mist?

What would it be like to just sit here and do nothing for a little while? Will the world collapse? Will we be out of a job, and lose the love of everyone we care about? Can we find the never ourselves instead of worrying about losing their love and respect?

Can we stay with the feeling of being behind, of feeling pressure and anxiety? What is it like just to feel that, without needing to act on it? Without needing to get rid of the feeling, as if it were some kind of problem? What if this feeling were exactly what we needed to feel right now?

These are the things we can contemplate and practice with if we slow down just a little bit.


Once we’ve slowed down, and started to practice mindfully with whatever is coming up … we can start to simplify.

What does it mean to simplify in this case? It means to let go of attachments to doing everything.

For example, if I’ve slowed down, I might take a look at my todo list for today … and realize that it’s a complete fantasy. I’m not going to get all of that done. Let’s move one thing to tomorrow, one task to a “Later This Week” list, and one to “Later This Month” (or even, “Do Next Year”).

Basically, we’re simplifying what we’re going to focus on today.

In fact, pick just one thing. If you could do just one thing for today, what would really make a big difference? That’s not to say that you’re not going to do the rest, but you’ll only do them if you have time after you’ve done this one thing. What would that one thing be?

Now let go of everything else right now, and just focus on this. It’s your entire universe. You can be completely present with it.

This is what it means to simplify. Picking one thing (even if it’s just answering one of those emails that have been sitting in your inbox for a week), and then letting go of everything else. Letting this one thing be enough, for right now. Letting it be everything.

Cultivating a Sense of Contentment

What does it mean for this “one thing” to be enough? It means acknowledging that it’s impossible to do everything on your list, impossible to get everything done. So you have to focus on one thing, and let that be enough.

“Enough” in this case means you’re content with doing this. It’s a beautiful thing to do, worthy of some of your precious life, worth letting the sands of time slip through your fingers because it’s important and wonderful.

In this way, we’re cultivating contentment. Maybe you’re not content with everything in your life, maybe not with yourself or others … but you’re content with this one thing, right now. It’s lovely, meaningful, enough. You love this one thing, this one moment, just as it is. You’re finding full appreciation for the miracle of this moment and this task.

If you can cultivate that for one thing and one moment, you can do it for the next. And the next. Soon you’ll apply this lens of enough and full appreciation to other things you do, and to yourself. To other people in your life. To this world.

And all of a sudden, you’re not behind on anything. Because what you’re doing right now is enough. And it’s all you have. Which is perfect, as it is.

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A young man stood in the entrance way to the stable trying to understand the connection with horses that his girlfriend seem obsessed with. As we chatted he hesitated for a moment before asking the question. “Why do you keep all these old horses?” he said. “They aren’t being used anymore, why don’t you take them to auction like other stables do?” he added. I smiled and looked out to the south. Trying to explain it isn’t always about economics, I began my sermon.

“The ribbons may be faded, the applause silenced, but the memories of good rides and victory passes never leave.” He cracked a smile as I went on. “Some of these horses I’ve bred, raised and trained. Many I have purchased. Some have been donated back to farm by their owners when they could no longer ride them. All have worked hard; all have trusted me with their welfare.” I smiled back at him and then continued. “They are in fact an extension of myself. I care for them as I would like to be cared for.” I went on. “Just because our bones are aged and some of us don’t stride as easily or gracefully as our younger counterparts, we are wise.” My visitor strained his ears to listen for more. “When they have aches and pains, I treat them. When they are tired, I rest them. And when I can no longer ease suffering, they are laid to rest by my veterinarian.” I looked to the gravesite as I went on. “You see this horse business is an emotional business. It is unlike any other job you will have. These horses are a gift that are lent to us for a short time. We have a duty to care for them and not betray them. They have a history with humankind and I don’t mean being displayed on a dinner plate.” I continued with my sermon sadly acknowledging that the kill pen is the last stop for many unfortunate horses. “When you take on a horse, you take on a financial responsibility. It shouldn’t be an impulsive purchase. You can never tire of it and throw the horse away when you are done with it.” My visitor’s face was softening as I pointed to a headstone. “I have a conscience that makes me at ease in my heart knowing my old friends have lived and passed on the lands they freely roamed and enjoyed. I gave them dignity in life and death and loved them all.” As I turned back to face the young man, I noticed a small tear roll down his cheek. I think he got my message.

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Neuroscientists Strongly Recommend That You Visit the Beach Regularly. Here’s Why You Should Do So!

Coastal breezes are good for your soul, seawater is good for your skin and swimming is good for your heart. This means that the seaside is one of the best places for a revitalizing and healthy break.

So, next time you take several days off work, choose a holiday beside the seaside.


6 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Holiday beside the Seaside:

– Seawater is good for your body and skin

Seawater is good for your body and skin. It’s rich in minerals such as calcium, iodine, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and sodium. These minerals may offer therapeutic effects, fight infection, improve your skin health, and help your body detoxify and heal.

Seawater may also help with seasonal allergies. Swimming in seawater may help activate temperature receptors under your skin, releasing hormones like endorphins and adrenaline. It may also help boost your immune system and alleviate pains and aches throughout your body.

– Sea air helps improve your respiratory health

Walks along the beach may alleviate asthma symptoms. While the psychological freedom of escaping from city smog to the clear skies of the seas greatly helps you breathe better, the quality of sea air itself plays an important role in respiratory health.

Sea air possesses tiny droplets of sea water enriched with magnesium, iodine, and other trace elements that may stimulate immune reactions by your respiratory organs and skin and effectively clear up your airways.

– Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D

When your skin is directly exposed to the sun, your body makes vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of calcium and building strong bones. Vitamin D is also used throughout your body to support cardiovascular, lung and immune health. It may also increase the level of endorphins in your body and reduce your risk of autoimmune diseases.

Only ten minutes of sun exposure may provide you with the recommended daily dose. But, when you head out into the sun for more than ten minutes, apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher and wear protective clothing.

– Swimming provides great physical exercise

Swimming provides great physical exercise, employing most of your major muscle groups, particularly as the water provides gentle resistance. It ranks as the 4th most popular sports activity in the U.S.

Among other aerobic activities such as bicycling and running, swimming for about 2.5 hours per week may help improve your heart health and decrease your risk of chronic diseases.

And as it is a non-impact sport, it offers an excellent way for those with injuries or arthritis to get some exercise.

– Walking barefoot on sand is good for your body and mind

The soles of your feet have more nerve-endings and sweat glands per cm2 than any other body part. Walking barefoot on sand may significantly stimulate these nerve-endings and sweat glands.

It may also boost your mood, and help you feel mentally grounded. It may also strengthen all the muscles between your back and feet, particularly your glutes, quadriceps, and calves.

– The beach gives you the gift of total relaxation

The beach may give you the gift of total relaxation. That sense of relaxation may bring you back to your life with a de-cluttered mind and a renewed sense of purpose.  Just staring at the beach may reduce your stress, alleviate depression and anxiety, and increase your sense of well-being. It may calm your mind and make you feel more relaxed and less anxious. Also, the sound of seagulls and waves may help your stress fade away.

When you feel relaxed, your emotional and creative side may come to the fore and you may become open to new ideas.


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