Louise Nevelson, Cascade, 1964 (detail) [via]

An introduction

The overload is a to-do list that never stops growing, simple tasks like “Mail rent check” mingling with larger undertakings like “Lose ten pounds” and “Be a better daughter.” Logic suggests these missions ought to be tackled on wildly different timelines, and yet the overload beckons you to achieve each one by the next business day—sooner, if possible. It needn’t wait until the first of January to conjure up new methods of self-improvement; every Monday, every morning, every hour seems as good a time as any to hit reset. If there were a moment to spare, one might pause to appreciate the things that are, in fact, already running smoothly or the items that have been crossed off the list, but the overload leaves no time for such indulgences. Backwards glances tempt backward movement, eyes on the prize, and all that.

The overload doles out mercurial bursts of energy in pursuit of some goal or other, all the while supplying a humming, ever-present anxiety that slowly bleeds you of that same resource. Of course, it is nothing if not diligent, and so it sends you to plumb the depths of your psyche in order to learn how best to maintain your drive and minimize exhaustion. Your sun sign (Cancer), moon sign (Taurus), rising sign (Gemini), Myers-Briggs type (INFJ), and activated Greek goddess archetype (principally Artemis, with elements of Hestia and Persephone) will all serve the purpose of helping you to navigate the overload and more importantly, Get Things Done. Should you find yourself at an impasse—unable to get out of bed and shower, let alone get to inbox zero or seek out freelance opportunities—the overload can be uncharacteristically patient. You will find it exactly as you left it once you emerge on the other side.

The overload pulls you in several directions at once, despite a decidedly forward thrust. It concerns itself with what comes next; it is a bookshelf bursting at the seams with books you really should read but haven’t gotten around to, a closet spilling over with clothing fit for several lifestyles, many of which you haven’t yet attained. The overload suspends you in a constant state of assessment, evaluation, recalibration. Though extended periods of rest are generally frowned upon, acceptable pit stops include (but are not limited to): memoirs by formidable women, inspiring talks, self-help books, rant sessions with like-minded friends, and articles touting products that promise to “transform your routine,” “change your life,” or “revolutionize,” well, anything.

As you may have guessed from my intimate familiarity on the subject, I count myself among those both afflicted and galvanized by the overload. If asked to describe my inner monologue, I could only liken it to a busy café during on a weekday morning; several trains of thought overlapping to create a low din, with a few shouts above the rest to keep me on task. (Meditation remains an utterly foreign concept to me.) The overload motivates me to be better—at everything, but still, better—and for that, I’m grateful, but at times, I find myself wishing I could clear even a small corner of my mind without having it fill right back up, more cluttered than before.

To that end, I’ve devised elaborate web browser bookmarking systems, filled countless notebooks dedicated to oddly specific subject matter, and mapped my mind to the best of my ability, setting calendar reminders to check in regularly with myself on each quadrant like an anxious surveyor. So far, the din has played on, oblivious to my efforts. Still, ever reliable, the overload is never short on ideas, and this—a place to distill, polish, and offload some of my thoughts before jumping back into the fray—is one of them. Here’s to moving onward, and hopefully upward.