Having not been at my best lately (health-wise....feeling much better now), mail and responsibilities stack up. The world of work doesn't stop just because I'm sleeping off an illness (or coughing up a lung, irrigating my sinuses, etc.).
Managing my inbox, which is like it's own "to do" list, is an ongoing battle. Plus, I've taken all my post-it notes and condensed them down to a list as well; a list 3 pages long. There comes a time when a list is just a freak-out mechanism. When you can spend whole days just answering mails and treading water and the list just never gets any shorter. Really, I thought the list-making would make me feel better, but I just can't have the list open on my desk. It's just too much. That's the kind of job I have; you have to decide what you can't get done. But the other things are still on the list.
Anyway, something that I have been trying out that really works for me is at night, planning for the next day a bit. On my white board, I write down the 4 things I need to get done the next day; things that will move my agenda forward. Not correspondence. But things I need to do despite the ping from mail coming into my inbox. In my 4 things, I don't pile in a whole day's worth of work all packed together so that I wonder when I will come up for air. Just 4 things that are important. And the rest of the day, I can practice my water treading exercises.
What I am noticing is that THIS is how I am getting to cross things off my list. And when I give myself a day to do these things, it helps me remind myself not to over-complicate things that really could be completed in a few hours. It also helps me remember to break things down and make them manageable so that things don't appear to be huge looming projects.
Under normal circumstances, a "to do" list would suffice. Or if I was working a desk, I would just focus on the positions that were the highest priority and/or needed a jump-start. I don't live in that world now. I have to come up with plans, marshal resources and execute on them (the resources part is where things can get interesting).
At the end of the day, it's actually kind of fun to look at my empty white board. And know that it is the end of the day.