No matter how much planning, preparation, and winnowing of your schedule you do, there are still times when responsibilities can wreak havoc on your to-do list. Whether at work or at home, there will be days or weeks when a lot of things just have to get done. How you face and perceive these challenges, though, will determine your stress and anxiety levels throughout this process.
- Maintain perspective. Now is the time to remind yourself of the big picture and of the temporary nature of this stress. Why are you taking on these responsibilities? What is the goal of all your hard work? Looking at the end result reinforces the temporary nature of your current condition.
- Don’t lose sight of the details. Be sure every vital to-do item is written on your list and methodically work your way through these items. If an important action is not on your list, you’ll worry about it unnecessarily. Also, remember the KISS principle and get the most important work done first.
- Embrace some of the stress. A little bit of stress (what is known as short-term, fight-or-flight stress) can be a good thing, especially if it helps to push you through your work. Use any stress you’re feeling to your advantage to give you a boost of energy to get many items checked off your list.
- Take breaks. Research shows that you’ll be more productive if you alternate between mindful and mindless work. You’re more likely to finish all of the items on your list if you take a short break for mindless work for at least five or 10 minutes every hour.
- Manage expectations. Regularly check in with the people who are waiting on the completion of your to-do items. The more they know about where you are in the process, the better they can anticipate and plan their to-do lists. How often and how detailed your updates need to be will be determined by the type of responsibilities you have.
- Don’t extend the stress. Now is not the time to take on a new project. Schedule appointments to talk about new opportunities for a few days or weeks down the line. You don’t have to say, “no,” you just need to say, “not right now.”
- Celebrate. When you’re finished with your massive to-do list, or at least the extremely weighty parts of it, take time to celebrate. You don’t need to go on a vacation (although, vacations are nice), but a reward of some kind is definitely in order. I’m quite fond of a walk to the ice cream shop.