Does this stressful pattern sound familiar?

  1. Think about things you need to finish
  2. Feel Anxious
  3. Procrastinate
  4. Distract Yourself with some easy to accomplish task
  5. Think about things you need to finish again
  6. Be completely gripped with anxiety
  7. Pace around for a bit
  8. Maybe talk to yourself or think loud thoughts
  9. Breathe
  10. Oh yeah!!! MAKE A LIST!!!!!!

This is one tactic I know works for me every time, but I never immediately think to do it. It’s like written word vomit to make mental space. I pick some aspect of my life personal, work, relationship, artistic, fitness, financial, and so on. Then, I just make a numbered list of all the things that I want to do in that area of my life that feel top of mind or urgent. After I make the list, I walk away. That part is very important.

Reviewing Your List

I give it at least a few hours, if not a day, and then I return to the list. Upon reviewing what I initially wrote, I am usually immediately aware that the anxiety I felt about all of those things prior to writing them down is pretty much gone. Then I set about prioritizing each of the tasks. If one of the tasks feels too big then I see if I can break it down into smaller steps.

I’m always reminded of this Mark Twain quote when I walk through this process:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

He was 100% correct when he said that, as well as a few other kick ass things. WHENEVER I feel overwhelmed or anxious about doing something it’s because I haven’t made it manageable. As long as I can remember that, I am usually able to walk myself through the process of making the task smaller and breaking it up into easy to accomplish steps. But, it starts with getting started.

Today, I was in, up, and TOTALLY over my head in work stress. Just when I felt like screaming at an inanimate object, I decided to make a list instead. I wrote down probably 28 items that I think need to be done in the next week. Those items most likely are not as urgent as I perceived them to be, however as I am writing this I can already feel that my anxiety about what I need to get done has pacified.

Don’t let yourself be swallowed up by the stress an anxiety. That growing stack of “to do’s” will probably never stop growing. But, you can accomplish one thing at a time. Just get started.