A Great Stress Relief Method – Writing Things Down

When working with people improving their efficiency one of the most common complaints is that they feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

Two years ago I was having an introductory meeting with a new student and she told me something very interesting:

“I really want to become better at time management and I have worked at it a lot, I have a weekly plan, I prioritize it, but still when I get ready to start I just feel like there are so many other things I should do. I feel overwhelmed and start running in circles in my mind. All of a sudden an hour has gone by and I haven’t done anything, is there any way to cure this?”

This is a very common problem, I am sure you have felt it yourself at one point or another.

Get everything out of your head
A big problem people have is that they are trying to remember everything they need to get done; this takes a lot of mental energy which is what causes stress.
It is harder to focus on a task because you have to keep remembering everything else which causes you to be less productive which causes even more stress, this starts an evil spiral.

Write everything down
Instead of trying to remember every thought, idea and to-do item, write them down instead.
Get a bunch of small pieces of paper and write down all the things you have in your mind, write them down one on each piece of paper.

Once you have emptied your mind and got it all on paper you will at once feel a sense of relief.

Identify next actions
The first time my wife listed everything she needed to do it was because I had told her to do it about 2000 times, to shut me up she finally did it. The reason she didn’t want to do it was that she was afraid that looking at that list would make it all more real and make her even more stressed.
It is keeping it in your mind that makes you stressed.

By identifying next actions you will have an easy actionable list. Things become smaller; you can do this little thing to move the project forward. It also helps you from having to think about what needs to be done every time you pick up a new task.

Prioritize and plan
Once you have created this list of actions to take you should sit down and prioritize the list.
You can use the ABCDE-method combined with the Quadrant 2 mindset we discussed in an earlier part of this time management series.

Having a long term mindset when prioritizing is very important, ask yourself “How will the completion of this task effect my long term success, 20 years down the line?” The task that has the greatest effect is the one you should work on.

This might feel stressful
Many are afraid that having everything written down so that you can see it might feel stressful, you will see everything that needs to be done.

It isn’t stressful.

If you don’t write it down you have to remember everything, that means you have to constantly remind yourself of everything you need to do, you need to think about it all the time.

When you write it down you know that you will get everything done, it is there on your list, you will check it and do everything on the list.

That way you can let it go and get to work on crossing things off it instead.

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Related posts:

  1. Here is a Method That Will Help You Eliminate Stress Once and For All
  2. Motivational Tip #3 – Writing Down All Your Projects
  3. Following up on Delegation – Coping with Stress at Work
  4. 8 Stress and Anger Management Techniques
  5. 9 Ways to Alleviate Stress
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2 Responses to A Great Stress Relief Method – Writing Things Down

  1. Marlee says:

    Hey Daniel,
    I have to say “getting out of your head” is one of the most effective ways to relief stress. I’ve found that when you distance yourself from a problem, you’re actually much more apt to finding a solution to it. Write it down and get away from the issue.

    These are great tips! Thanks.

    • Daniel M. Wood says:

      Hey Marlee,

      Great point. Getting some distance between you and your problems makes a big difference, it is what is taught in many philosophies, among others Mindfullness which I am reading about now.

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