A Busy Day Doesn’t Have To Be A Stressful Day


To Do Lists to Stress LessToday is going to be busy. There are things to do and not enough time to do them. Between the time and brain power needed to accomplish all that needs to be done, it’s looking like an impossible feat. You can feel it in every part of your body: the knot in your stomach, the shallow breaths that are not getting far in your lungs, the beginnings of a headache, and the feeling that there are hundred tiny hamsters running on their wheels throughout your body. And then there’s your mind: the tasks pushing and shoving each other to stay at the front of your mind, the panic that you’ll never be able to do what you have to do casting its long shadow over everything else, and the inevitable irritation that always accompanies these things.

There’s got to be something that can make today different. Can it be a busy day without being a stressful day? Can there be a lot to be done without the feeling that you’re behind the eight ball and it’s going to roll over you at any moment? Most of all, can you rein in the crankiness at least enough that you don’t lose friends?

To borrow a phrase from an obnoxious infomercial from days gone past, it’s time to stop the insanity! It’s time to get some control, if not of your to do list, then of the way you react to it.

First of all, stop and take a breath. No, not one of the shallow ones that you’ve been taking. An actual slow, deep breath that has a chance to get life-giving oxygen into your lungs. One that is not expelled with a big sigh on the other side. There, doesn’t that feel better? Take another one. It’s okay, you’ve got time. Actually, since you’ve got the time, why don’t you go ahead and keep breathing slowly while you read the rest of this? It’s not going to make it take any longer, and you might just be able to process the words better.

Now it’s time to talk to yourself. It’s up to you if you want to speak out loud or if you want to have a quiet conversation in the privacy of your brain. The first rule of this conversation is that you have to speak in a kind voice. Not used to doing that, are you? Think about your priorities. What has to be done, and when? Get out a piece of paper and make a list of what needs to be done. Getting it out of your mind and onto a piece of paper immediately makes it less overwhelming and more manageable. Now make a schedule. It doesn’t have to be perfect. A rough estimate of the day should suffice. Anything that needs to be done at a certain time gets to go on the schedule first, and the rest can go in whenever it fits best.

Next, make a similar list of what you hope to get done. Does it fit into your schedule? If not, repeat after me: It’s not the end of the world. Say it again.

Uh-oh, did you feel that? Take another breath. And another. Keep going until you get rid of the miniature rodents and their wheels. Look back at the list that needs to get done and remind yourself that that is your priority. Now you’re ready to start the day.

As you go through it, be mindful of what you really need and want to accomplish and be on guard for little time snatchers that compete for your attention. It’s okay to put off checking your email and any other notifications on your phone for a while. It’s even okay to not answer certain calls. There’s a wonderful new feature called voice mail. Let people use it! One of the best things about a list is that feeling of accomplishment when you get to cross something off it. Make yourself stay in the moment when you do this. Allow a victorious smile to cross your lips. Give yourself a pat on the back. In the battle of the busy day, you’re winning.