Busting Through Stress – The To Do List

Let’s be honest, stress is a reality. Although it would be nice to escape to a private secluded beach every once in a while, the fact is a lot of the things that we love exist only exist in this fast-paced, urban, driven, go-getter environment.  So if you are like me and love the thrill of living in the city, the excitement of challenges at work, the competitive spirit that drives you to surpass your perceived limits, and the desire to interact with others, stress is going to exist. The question to ask yourself now is are you going to let stress rob you of your energy, strength, and health?

Stress bites!

Or are you going to learn how to manage it and harness that energy to help you stay focused, driven, and present?

The past few weeks have been exceptionally stressful for me and in order to not only “survive” it, but to enjoy the ride, I’ve started to develop some techniques to help alleviate the pressures of stress and the anxiety that goes along with it. Is this list exhaustive? No. Are these techniques helpful for me to keep my cool when the waves of anxiety and stress set-in? Yes.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with these tips/tricks/strategies and I want to give each one the spotlight and allow for the ideas to sink in. Accordingly, I will be sharing a couple stress busting techniques with you over the next two weeks. I challenge you to begin implementing each one immediately really pay close attention to which ones seem to help you.

Stress-Busting Technique 1:  Get it out of your head, and onto paper

I cannot even begin to explain to you how immediately the stress begins to lift off your shoulders when you take it off that merry-go-round in your head and put it down on a piece of paper. For me, the simple ritual of physically writing out the tasks I need to accomplish seems to free up space in my head to actually deal with those things. I’m also a very visual person, so seeing on paper the tasks that I need to tackle makes it all appear a lot more manageable. Making lists also helps me to eliminate the fear and anxiety of forgetting to do something. There is relief in not needing to trust your memory to accomplish something, putting it onto paper removes the burden of forgetfulness. Finally, the “gift” of making a list is the incredible feeling of checking things off said list. Nothing seems to quash feelings of stress like accomplishing tasks and then drawing a big fat juicy line through them.

To implement this strategy successfully I recommend creating a ritual around it; making your list shouldn’t add to the stress of all the other tasks you need to accomplish.

  1. Go buy a fancy new notebook, one that feels special to you. Find a notebook that leaves you enough room on each page to make a list, but not so big that it becomes awkward to carry around with you.
  2. Each morning, before taking on your day, sit down for a maximum of 5 minutes (maybe with your morning cup of coffee) and let all the things just pour out of your head and into your notebook. Don’t strategize yet, don’t judge yet, don’t allow yourself to panic. Just let things pour out onto the paper.
  3. Next, look back at your list from the previous day and move over any items that haven’t been completed yet.
  4. Once this is done and you see everything you’re working with, now you can strategize, now you can plan your attack. I find it’s helpful to highlight or star tasks that must be completed first or that are time sensitive.
  5. Try to keep your notebook open when you are working. Let the list from time to time remind you of things that are time sensitive or of greatest importance.
  6. Cross off items that you have completed. Really indulge in the strike through! It feels gooooood to get thangs done!
  7. Revisit your list in the late afternoon if you haven’t looked at it since morning to see how you’re tracking.
  8. Sometimes if I find myself stressing in the evening, I will preemptively make my list before bed so I can get the thoughts out of my head and get the good night of sleep that I’ll need to tackle the list the next day

Try out this tip and see how it works for you. I know some people like to make their to do lists on the computer, I personally really enjoy writing things down by hand. Whatever your preference, get your to do list out of your head so you can use your head for all of the important things it should be used for!

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