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Taking Control Of The Never Ending To-Do List

At any given moment life is a certain amount of busy. What is important to realize is there are events in life that produce more stress on our bodies than we know or even think they should. I’ve always liked the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory as it quantifies stress in a very objective way. It says divorce is more stressful than a child going to college, though both are major life events. It also suggests that it is important to realize that little things like taking out a loan, taking a big pay cut or having someone in your family have an overall change in health are also stressors.

It is important to think about the repercussions of change.

Though we all know we need to be ready for life to constantly be in flux, we are less trained in the element of constant settling. If each new day brings us little changes we are always learning how to live in our new world. I like that the stress ratings include a “Major Change in Financial State (ie a lot worse or better off than usual).” We all know that it is stressful when money gets tight, but the adjustment into money being readily available is significant as well and leads to all sorts of stressful circumstances. Think of the stresses those two “lucky” people who won the lottery yesterday will face in the next couple of weeks.

Before you look at your to-do list again, take the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. Make sure you scroll down and read your results. It may surprise you. Their language is a little doomsday-ish. But it is important to realize that most of our physical and mental ailments are caused by stress and slowly, silently accumulate in our bodies. We always think that stress leads to heart attacks or emotional breakdowns. But stress also leads to migraines, weight-gain, irritability, poor sleep, back pain, digestive issues, respiratory issues, and skin problems.

One of my yoga teachers used to say “yoga creates time.” He was adamant that if you were stressed and needed to get things accomplished that going to yoga would make you even more productive and the time spent in yoga would not be lost time.

This holiday season when the to-do list piles up and those sacred vacation days get filled with cleaning house and completing over-due chores, I invite you to think about what activities would lower your stress level so that the items on your to-do list become task-markers and not evil villains draining your energy.

4 Steps for Regaining Control Of The List

  1. Prioritize: Which tasks do you need to complete this week? Today? Before lunch?
  2. Get Specific: Which tasks do you have all the materials to complete? If you don’t have what you need make an ordered list of steps so you do things in the right order and understand just how complicated a multi-step task will be.
  3. Avoid Failure: What is on your list just to make you feel crazy and fail? Get it off and get serious.
  4. Look for Holes: What is missing? The most stressful part of a to-do list is the stuff not on it. If you think of something at 3am, right it down so it doesn’t haunt you all night. Let the to-do list be in charge and let your tired mind rest.
  5. Evaluate Reality: Does everything on your list make sense with your current workload, lifeload and energy level. Set yourself up for success by figuring out what is possible within your life.

Image credit: dotshock / 123RF Stock Photo

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