I have been working with very busy philanthropists, nonprofit CEOs, policy makers, and other influential leaders for over 25 years. Each of them is extremely accomplished and at the top of their game in many ways. And yet, each still struggles in the moment to figure out where to focus when too many things are demanding attention at once.
Here is a simple metaphor you can play with in those times when everything seems both important and urgent.
Imagine everything you are juggling. Acknowledge and have compassion for yourself that, no matter what, you cannot possibly keep all these balls in the air. No one in the world can. And then notice that you have some choices - some of these balls are glass, and some are rubber. In fact, most of them are rubber. If you drop them, it might be inconvenient, it might be embarrassing, they might roll into a disgusting piece of gum on the ground. But they are rubber and they can be picked back up, cleaned off, and put back into circulation later. A very few of these balls you are juggling are glass. These are the ones you absolutely cannot break. Some rubber balls may pose as glass at first. But if you look deeper you will see it may be really uncomfortable to drop something but ultimately it is a rubber ball.
Glass balls may be 5% max of all the balls. But you’ve got this. You can juggle that many - in fact you have juggled many more in the past - so allow yourself to drop a few rubber balls in service to keeping these safe. Tackle these glass balls one by one so they can be put away, or handed off carefully. Look at your list when feeling overwhelmed - which ones are the rubber ones to let go of, even if just for a short time?