I recently received an email from someone with a question and I thought to myself, "I’ll get back to him when I can, it’s not urgent." Two days later, I was scolded via email by the same person who was disappointed I had not gotten back to him. To say this is uncommon would be untrue.

More than ever before, I’m trying to find a way to keep up with the variety of platforms available that have messaging and human expectations attached to them. From LinkedIn messages to Instagram direct messages to questions in Facebook posts, I feel so accessible. To anyone and everyone.

As a creative entrepreneur who lives and breathes in the digital space, there is part of me that understands that I’ve created this communication mess. However, it’s not just social media. It’s calls, texts, voicemails, letters, gifts, emails — something we are almost all familiar with.

Soon enough, my list of people to thank, call back, respond to, and check in on has grown so long that I don’t know where to start. Brigid Schulte, in her book "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time," talks about this as mental pollution.

"One’s brain is stuffed with all the demands of work along with the kids’ calendars, family logistics, and chores. Sure, mothers can delegate tasks on the to-do list, but even that takes up brain space — not simply the asking but also the checking to make sure the task has been done, and the biting of the tongue when it hasn’t been done as well or as quickly as you’d like."

Am I the only one who fantasizes about dial-up internet, landlines, and traveling via horse and buggy? I’m partially kidding, but after spending a month in Southeast Asia this fall with my husband, I appreciated slow mornings at cafes, long walks on the beach, and leaving my phone at our hotel almost daily. Everyone knew I was away and very little was asked of me or expected from me outside of work. 

Adjusting back after a month away has been just that, an adjustment. And I feel once people knew I was back (I was secretive about it), the requests, needs, texts and calls flooded back in. It was absolutely fascinating to watch it all happen and to feel the weight that I had released in Asia slowly start to pile on again. However, I’m constantly reminding myself that I get to consider this mental pollution "weight" and that I get to decide the thoughts I think about the pollution.

I don’t want to look back at my life and think about all the time I spent just trying to get "caught up" on all the things. I am going to miss important people's birthdays. I’m going to forget the side dish. I’m not going to text you back for a while. I hope you and I can find space for grace, knowing we’re all being pulled in so many directions and doing our best.

Emily Steele is a Des Moines gal, always seeking to fill the gap to make the community a better place to live, work and play. From co-owning Brand Launch to running FemCity Des Moines, Steele consistently works to provide value and education for business owners and other fellow do-gooders. Connect with Steele via email.