There’s something about crossing items off a list that gives me a little thrill. In fact, I’ll even write down things I’ve ALREADY DONE just to have the ability to mark them as completed. It’s been written that “action is the antidote to anxiety” so it makes sense that making a list of daily actions would be a good idea for someone like me, right? WRONG.
Here’s the thing: I was doing it wrong. I treated my to-do list like a brain dump. Everything that needs to be accomplished in my entire life gets put on the list: paint the back porch, pressure wash the house, call the school to get the right phone number on file, get my car door fixed from the time Penn backed into my car in the driveway, workout, conference calls, buy more dog food, etc, etc until eternity.
My to-do list would be impossible for 8 people to accomplish in a single day and it leaves me feeling overwhelmed.
New Plan for List Making
For me, I like to write a list using an actual pen and actual paper. I know, I know. There are apps and online calendars and digital task managers. Call me old-fashioned, but you’ll pry this ballpoint pen from my cold, dead hand.
Here’s my new plan to clear up my daunting to-do lists and, get this, it’s working.
- Limit the number of tasks that go on the list. You read above that I was guilty of creating a list that would be impossible to conquer. I quite simply wasn’t accurately accounting for how long tasks take in real life. Putting, “write thank you notes” on the list is great but I wasn’t creating enough time to get everything done and that was leaving me feeling defeated. Now, on a heavy work day or a super high anxiety day, there may only be one task on the list.
- Make a day for specific tasks. I tend to avoid making appointments. Part of it, I’ll admit, I don’t love talking on the phone. I’ve started leaving phone calls I need to make for Mondays. After our team meetings on Monday mornings, I’ll suck it up and spend 30 minutes (if needed) making appointments or doing the mundane calls that life demands. I leave bills for Sundays because something about keeping up with mail sucks my will to be productive.
- Break up bigger tasks into actionable items and make deadlines. I get easily overwhelmed when starting a massive task. Sometimes it seems so scary, I don’t even start it. I have to get my car fixed and there’s zero part of me that wants to do this. (It’s just a dent, the door works fine so it’s really just cosmetic.)
So here’s my list:
-September 5: Call three repairs shops to schedule estimates during my Monday call marathon
-September 7, 14, 21: Schedule to take car in over a three week span (one to each shop per week)
-September 23: Rent a car and schedule for repairs to be made
-September 26: Take the car to get the actual freaking repair
Realistically, I’m giving myself more than a month to do this. But it’s better than not doing it at all, right?
My to-do lists are a lot smaller and more specific. And guess what? These small, manageable tweaks to my day are a necessary shift in my focus on my mental health.
How do you manage your daily tasks? What helps you manage your anxiety?