I always find it interesting how clients can be brilliantly efficient and effective in some areas of their life but not in others. For example, clients who can manage so well in stressful working conditions, who can manage large teams of staff or complex working environments, can fall apart when dealing with a difficult home life. The skills and knowledge that they draw on in the workplace go out the window when confronted with a stroppy toddler or intrusive parent.
Using effective time management and organisational skills throughout our lives is a great way to reduce our stress and anxiety. Many clients find themselves overwhelmed by emotions when dealing with life’s challenges and it is usually linked to a feeling of losing control. Learning to relax and slow down, by using techniques such as hypnosis or mindfulness, can really help but so to can making some very simple and practical changes.
If you want to get back that feeling of self-control, and start to feel less stressed, try to incorporate these 6 changes into your life today.
Striving to do your best can be a good trait to have. It can lead to great achievements in your life such as passing exams or a successful and rewarding career. However, research shows that the dark side of perfectionism can lead to poor physical health and even an early death.
Setting high standards for yourself can help you to achieve personal and professional goals, but setting unrealistic standards throughout your life can lead to unwanted stress.
The key to ditching perfectionism is starting to accept that you can’t be perfect at everything that you do. Begin by changing your “self-talk” – the words that you say to yourself. Replace “I must…”, “I should…”, “I have to…” with more realistic words such as “I hope to…”, “I’d like to…”, “I wish to…”.
Then make sure that you start to set yourself goals and targets that are realistic and achievable. No one can be the perfect parent, perfect partner, perfect employee and the perfect son or daughter.
Finally, congratulate yourself on your successes but be more compassionate with yourself when things don’t go the way you had hoped.
Do you find yourself putting tasks off or avoiding them completely? Perhaps you are avoiding them because you’ve just got too much on, or perhaps you are just not motivated to do it. If you are a perfectionist perhaps you are avoiding it because you don’t want to do it badly or wrong, or perhaps it’s a task that you know (or assume) you are just not going to enjoy doing.
Procrastination, and the worry that sometimes comes from putting off a task, especially with an impending deadline, can lead to additional stress. Much better to tackle the task head-on as early as possible.
A great way to avoid procrastination is to start by reaffirming your goal. Is it a task that really needs to be done? Are you the best person to do it? Do you know anyone else who has completed it who can give you some advice? What is the outcome if the task isn’t completed?
Then set yourself a realistic deadline and allocate sufficient time in your diary to complete it.
Finally break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps.
When we have so many competing tasks and deadlines it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and easy to become overwhelmed by negative emotions. To prevent this from happening take some time to set your priorities. What are the key tasks that you need to complete and what can be pushed back, or is simply no longer required? Once you’ve made a decision on your most important tasks you can begin by completing those tasks first.
Have A System
For many people who are stressed, when their brain is ramped up and on high alert, their mind becomes filled with all the things that they have to get done. In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen stresses the importance of moving planned tasks and projects out of your head and having a proper system for filing and recording them. In Problem-Solving Therapy: A Treatment Manual the authors discuss the value of “externalising”, getting all the clutter out of your head so that you can think more clearly.
Many of us might be really organised in work, but allow our personal life to become chaotic. To get organised quickly and simply there are 4 essential steps:
- Set up a filing system – invest in some folders and something to store them in (you don’t need to buy a filing cabinet, a small expander file might be sufficient). Collect everything in your house that needs to be filed away eg bank statements, theatre tickets, instruction manuals, post-it notes and create a file for each. Make sure you create suitable systems for electronic documents and email as well.
- Get a note-taking device, either a physical notebook or an electronic one such as the Evernote app. Use it to jot down ideas or anything that comes to mind – get it out of your head!!
- Buy a calendar/diary or make the most of online calendars such as Google Calendar. Put everything in it – birthdays, anniversaries, appointments. Start to use it to book time out for things that are important to you eg going to the gym, meeting friends, taking the kids swimming.
- Start a task list/things-to-do list – again, this can be physical, such as an A4 pad, or electronic, such as the app Remember The Milk. Write down everything that you need to do, no matter how small. Review it regularly and keep it updated.
Start to say “No”
Are you a people pleaser? Does it feel wrong to say “No” when others ask you for help? Are other people’s responsibilities getting in the way of your goals? Then you need to start saying “No”.
It might seem hard at first, you might feel that you are letting other people down or are worried that other people will think badly of you. However, learning to say “No” can be liberating. Consider how much extra time and energy you would have if you had said “No” more often.
So, start to practice saying “No” to the small requests and work your way up to bigger things. Don’t apologise and avoid the trap of saying things like “I will try to do it later if I’ve got time”. Learn to be polite but firm and accept that you can only be responsible for your own feelings and you can’t influence how other people feel.
Learn To Delegate
Just as many people can’t say “No”, others find it difficult to delegate tasks. Perhaps it’s the fear that another person won’t do the job as well as you (see Ditch Perfectionism) or perhaps you don’t want to be seen as being weak. Whatever the reason, now is a great time to start delegating tasks.
The 4 D’s is a classic productivity system for deciding what to do with the tasks you have:
- Drop it – Does it really need doing? If not, drop it
- Do it – Can it be done straight away? Then do it now
- Defer it – Is it going to take more time or resources or knowledge than you’ve got now? Then defer it
- Delegate it – Are you the best person to do this task? If not, delegate it
In the workplace, if you are a manager, then delegation is a skill that you should be developing anyway. Even if you are not a manager there may be opportunities to delegate tasks to colleagues who are better suited to the task. Perhaps in return, you could do something that you are better at or would enjoy more.
Even within a family setting, tasks can be delegated effectively. Including children in household chores is a vital part of learning life skills. Teaching children to tidy their own room, wash up or make their own breakfast can free up your time considerably. Make sure you explain the task fully to them and learn to accept that they aren’t going to reach your standards straight away.
If you are interested in finding out how we can work together to help you to reduce your anxiety, you can book a free consultation by visiting my contact page.