On most Sunday afternoons, you can find me sitting at my desk with a warm cup of tea or a mason jar full of lemon and cucumber-infused water, jotting down a to-do list for my upcoming week. This week’s list included multiple appointments, a few deadlines, and at least three follow-up calls/or emails. I’ll also be traveling this weekend, so I made sure to include, “pack for Detroit” to the list. A few months ago, a list like this would’ve certainly triggered my anxiety. These days, instead of feeling instantly overwhelmed with a seemingly endless to-do list, I shift my thinking which allows me to refocus my approach.
Instead of accepting an initial thought of, “I have so many tasks to complete this week, I’ll never get it all done. My week will be swamped!”, I challenge myself to improve my thought to a more positive one. An example of an improved thought would be, “I’m looking forward to and prepared for a productive week. I’ll prioritize my task list and I’ll do my very best to complete each task without burning out.”
Sometimes this method takes a while to kick in and unfortunately, anxiety can rear its ugly head. When I’m aware this is happening, I stop what I’m doing and walk away. Depending on the task and the day, I’ll take a break. The break can be as short as five minutes or as long as 30 minutes. After all, my goal is to be productive and efficient, not overwhelmed, and fruitless.
More and more I’m learning that what I focus on will develop. If I focus on being overwhelmed, I become anxious. If I dwell on how long a task will take to complete, I’ll struggle my way through, and possibly miss a deadline.
I challenge you to embrace this new way of thinking about completing your to-do list. It may take some time to get used to, but keep trying. Months from now, you’ll be glad you did. Just remember: improving your thoughts to more positive ones helps increase productivity and lessen your anxiety.