My Number One Stress Management Tool

Reduce Stress

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I have a lot of things on the go at all times and, naturally, I attempt to keep all those things organized in my mind.  Goals, responsibilities, important dates…they are all organized into the chaos that is my head.  It can be very stressful organizing all that information especially if something particularly difficult to deal with pops up in front of me.  In fact, it seems at times that I couldn’t possibly cram more information in there without losing some other important piece of information.  All that information starts to get washed out by other information I am cramming in there and, eventually, it turns from a black and white to-do list into a fuzzy list resembling static on a television.

It’s important to live in the moment, seeking peace of mind and not dwelling on past failures or worrying about future achievements. It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and look to the bright side of everything that happens.  And it’s important to use organization and time management skills… But, there’s one simple tool, or exercise, that is responsible for really reducing my stress levels.  And it will work for you too…

Write Things Down

Write down (or type out) the things you are responsible for taking care of.  Grab a piece of paper or haul out the trusty blackberry and create your list… type out all those things you are responsible for taking care of.  Put important dates in your calendar and document important tasks and action items in your task list.

Once you have created a list go back to the top and prioritize it… put a due date beside anything that requires it or break important tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.  It is so much easier to understand and take action on the ‘next steps’ for items on your list if it’s there, in black and white, right in front of you.

As you write that information down you immediately clear your mind for dealing with what’s important… instead of focusing on organizing a to-do list and an endless number of tasks and responsibilities in your head, you can now focus on the action items, those small steps required to make progress towards completing each task or accomplishing each goal.  You will become more productive and, as you strike off each item on your list, more motivated to move on to the next one.  Additionally, it’s easier to identify the ‘mind clutter’ from those tasks that were simply not that important if you can visually prioritize everything in front of you.

You will find, as you turn this exercise into a routine, that you are better able to achieve and maintain peace of mind and, furthermore, you will be better prepared to cope with those unexpected life occurrences that are bound to try to interrupt or derail our efforts.

COMMENT NOW! What is your number one stress management tool?


    • says

      Time spent with family is truly amazing, isn’t it. I make sure I have quality time with my wife and girl every day. Thanks, Rick, for stopping by and leaving a comment.
      Darren Sproat

  1. says

    Because I’m constantly shifting gears I have to write things down in order to de-clutter my brain. Otherwise, I constantly have this nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something. I start fresh every Monday morning.

    One thing that I started doing last year was to merge my personal and work lists. It helps me organize my life around all of my priorities and responsibilities. I miss less fun stuff this way!
    .-= Check out Susie Gallaway’s recent blog >> A Year of Opportunity =-.

    • says

      One of the most significant advantages I have found in doing this and making it routine is the de-cluttering it facilitates. I had actually originally started this post with a question… “Do you ever feel like you go all day forgetting something?” I too merge the personal and professional lists and keep the priorities in check so I know where to focus my time. I also make sure I prioritize “me time” in my list.
      You may enjoy my “Monday Deserves Better” post as well… in it I discuss Monday as an opportunity for a fresh start to a wonderful new week:

      Darren Sproat

    • says

      You’re not the only one, man… I too have a fancy mobile that I barely put to use. It has this great task list and calendar that could take so much of my mental clutter away! :)
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. says

    Hi Darren,
    I do like to use lists – they definitely help me not only plan what I’ll do – but also remember that which I am planning to do. It’s really great for those things that are more long-term (the remembering part).

    The other thing for me to keep stress to a minimum: my mornings. I get up early just so I can experience some quiet and silence…and in that, much peace. It’s always a great way to start my day off on the right foot.

    • says

      I hear you on both accounts…
      I now use my phone to document quick moments of inspiration and the ahha moments that occur and 20 hours later you attempt to think of the situation or surroundings that caused it and can’t. Now I will never forget!

      And my mornings… I am sure you’ve read about my mornings on this blog. They are ME TIME… whether I’m meditating, working out, putzing about the house, reading, listening to music, or waking up half the neighborhood singing “BORN TO BE WILD” along with my stereo… my mornings are my time.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  3. says

    Hi Darren, it’s nice to land here. I can relate to this post because every day that goes by, I have like a hundred things going on in my mind at once. Sometimes I don’t write down anything and tend to get really stressed with everything I have to do. This is a great tip for prioritizing our tasks. Thank for the reminder and great blog by the way!

    • says

      Thanks so much for those very kind comments. I great appreciate it.
      For me, it’s important to do all that other stuff like staying positive and looking on the bright side of things but this one thing, documenting what I do and doing what I document, has been a stress reliever for me for years.
      Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a comment,

  4. says

    Hey Darren,
    A topic dear and near to my heart – because I struggle so much with it. Someone once spoke about this at our Toastmasters club and suggested this approach: Put your priorities in 4 quadrants of a paper (or a board or a PowerPoint slide, whatever works)! Title the 4 sections as the following:
    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important but not Urgent
    3. Urgent but not Important
    4. Neither Urgent nor Important.
    I love this method and have been too remiss and need to use it again, plus your tips here…then I shall be super productive :)!!!
    Thank you!!!

  5. says

    My number one stress management tool is what I call constructive recollection. I allow myself to forget things, but systematically, by doubting whatever I can doubt about how really important things (and people) are. The further I drift away in doubt, the more the urge (may) start(s) to creep up to “constructively recollect” all that made it important. That pulls in other contexts for making it meaningful or even significant, thereby reciprocally providing meaning to those contexts.

  6. says

    I definitely find lists helpful ~ but once my list is made my real stress management tool is my bike. I find that if I’m completely stressed out trying to work through the list is just not going to happen, at least not smoothly. Getting myself into a less stressed frame of mind with a nice bike ride makes everything on the list go much quicker and easier. I find the list helps me let go of it all because I know I won’t forget everything because it’s written down.
    .-= Check out Jackie Lee’s recent blog >> 72 Hour Challenge ~ YES! I’m Challenging YOU! =-.

  7. says

    As I read this, I am staring at a pile of personal and business “to do” stuff on my work table and I was feeling overwhelmed. My mother is and always has been a huge list writer, and she has always tried to get me to do it too since I have ADD and that wonderful creative gene that keeps me going in many directions and juggling multiple tasks. Now in my forties, I still struggle with lists since I forget to look at them :-) But… today is the day to make this one small change to lessen the stresses in my life. Thank you for posting this! I can’t wait to read many more of your articles. I am sure you will be hearing from me more!


  8. says

    Keeping a list is useful and much suggested as a way to increase your memory and stay organized and up to date. Having said that I tend not to and manage to keep afloat… (just) But I would recommend this task and suggest this to those who need to keep up with their activities.

  9. says

    I survive by the power of a list. As a freelance professional, a busy Mom, and a supportive wife my days are filled to the brim. Without the power of a list I would literally be lost!

    My master list begins in the quiet moments of a Sunday afternoon. I determine my main priorities for each day of the coming week. I try to include three main tasks to be accomplished on any given day. Once this master list is written down, I move to creating sub-lists of tasks that I will need to accomplish in order to achieve the goal of completing main items. This breaks major items into “doable” bits that are easily accomplished.

    Most of us lead busy lives. Avoiding the stress of a busy day often means retaining focus on what we need to accomplish. Lists provide me with a road map to get “there.” My list system functions like a road map or outline that keeps me on task, focused, and – ultimately – stress free! Enjoy the process of the list for it will pay dividends.

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