How to Overcome Anxiety When You Have to Do 10.000 Urgent Things Today

Dec 10, 2020

I cannot live with anxiety or stress.

That’s one of the main points inside my “personal manifesto”.

It’s unhealthy. Period.

I ended up to this conclusion in 2016 when I was just 40 (40s crisis? Maybe…).

Since then, I have looked for a method (because I do believe a lot in methodologies and processes) in which I could trust to know how to act whenever I felt overwhelmed because of thousands of urgent, critical, and essential tasks.

We’re living in a society in which “rush” is one of its preferred words.

We have to reply fast, to go fast, to do everything fast. If it’s not so, we’re losers, failures, non-professionals, bad people who don’t deserve anything in life.

This situation adds extra pressure to ourselves because we don’t want to be perceived as that.

Here I will share the procedure I always use to overcome this frequent anxiety/stressful scenario that has become, unfortunately, a routine in our lives.

I’ve just used it today, without going any further, so I have it very “fresh” in my mind.

1. Calm down

We’re animals.

We should never forget that.

As soon as we get into “primitive” situations, our reptilian brain takes control.

We want to run away from the situation, to escape, to leave it behind as soon as possible.

The point is that we can’t because we have a huge amount of tasks waiting for us. So many that they can’t be done in a minute.

It’s time to call our rationality, our thinking brain, and do just the opposite of what our reptilian brain is telling us.

Don’t run. Stop, calm down, and relax.

Forget about everything and do anything that gives you peace. In my case is having a cup of coffee (yes, it relaxes me…). In yours, it could be:

  • breath,
  • close your eyes,
  • read some sport news,
  • look to the sky,

Everything’s valid. It depends on you.

The point is to free your mind from pressure.

If you have a massive amount of things to be done, it doesn’t matter at all if you “waste” (you will see it’s not a waste, it’s an investment) 10, 15, or even 30 minutes to calm down, forget about everything, and take control of the situation.

You always have to be in control of the situation. Otherwise, you’ll underperform.

You think if you start working immediately will be better, but that’s your reptilian brain’s instruction. We need our rationality to control the situation because we’re supposed to be rational human beings.

In my case, as I said before, I have a cup of coffee, slowly, thinking in good nice memories, just letting the time go, breathing, and “escaping” from the present.

You’ll see:

  • You will feel much more comfortable after this experience.
  • You’ll start to see much more clearer.
  • You will relativize the situation.

It’s your thinking brain, taking control of the situation, and your emotional brain, pushing you towards the right way.

You’re not between life and death. It’s just you have too many things to do.

Now:

  • You’re ready to perform at your highest level.
  • You’ll see everything looks much easier.

Don’t hesitate and go for it!

2. Write down all things

Start writing down all those 10.000 urgent things.

You’ll see they’re not so many.

It’s again our reptilian brain that is playing with us.

Our brain, whenever it has more than 3-4 things simultaneously, gets collapsed. That’s the overwhelming sensation we’re feeling. Nothing else.

Maybe you’ll be able to write even 20 things. Sorry but I doubt it. I’ve never been able to write down more than 7-8 things, and they’re usually under 5.

This exercise of writing down everything will help you a lot because now you consciously see your scenario isn’t so bad as you thought.

It’s starting to feel achievable, and you’re going to calm you down even more. Your emotional brain will be happy too.

Being relaxed is key for human beings. You always have to look for it if you want to perform at your best!

3. Select the real urgent ones

Now we’ll go even deeper into our writing exercise.

Look at those tasks and select the ones YOU REALLY HAVE TO DO TODAY.

Sorry, but I cannot believe all of them have to be done today. I’m pretty sure it won’t be a disaster to do some of those tasks tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow.

Whenever you find a task that doesn’t need to be done today, take it out of the list. Tomorrow will be another day.

Remember, the sun rises every day. We have a tremendous amount of time in front of us. Life’s not going to end today. Don’t panic and delay those “not so important” tasks.

At this moment, you’re entirely relaxed because you have found out everything’s achievable without hesitation.

4. Order them based on your criteria

If you have done this process correctly, you will have 3-5 tasks.

Now, order them. If you have to choose just 1 task, which one will it be?

Force yourself to select one.

There’s always one task that’s THE TASK.

Whenever you’re done, do the same process with the others.

Now you have an ordered list of tasks.

Let’s move on!

5. Schedule them

As you only have such a tiny number of tasks, it’s effortless to estimate how long they will take (or how long you think you should dedicate because you could be all your life doing just one task).

Please, don’t try to underestimate the length of each task. That will stress you again. Try to overestimate the time. If you think that task will take you 1.5 hours, say you’ll dedicate 2 hours to it.

That will let you perform our next stage much better.

Look at your watch and put the starting hour in which you should start each task next to each one.

Now you have planned your day. Everything’s totally under control because you can see (and almost touch) you can do it. And without stress!

Definitely, now you’re totally relaxed and calm.

6. Focus on just the first one

Now, forget about everything, look at your first task, and go for it.

Don’t think about anything else. Everything’s under control, and you just need to do that task. It’s your one and only goal. The only thing that matters.

That will take you into flow, and you’ll perform at your best.

You will see that you usually finish your task even before the planned time. That will motivate you and will give you even more energy to go for the next task.

If you suffer a delay, don’t worry. There’s a lot of time left. Don’t stress out. Stay calm. You’re doing your best.

You have to understand that if you’re relaxed and perform at your best, if you cannot get all the things done, materially there wasn’t enough time.

It’s not your fault. We’re not heroes. The only thing we can do is perform at our best, at our peak level, and that’s all we can do.

Anyway, be sure that in most cases, you will have enough time to get all the stuff done if you’ve correctly executed the above steps I have described.

7. Do it and go for the next one

Whenever you finish your first task, cross it out! It’s a fantastic and very motivating action!

You will release endorphins by doing that. You will have an intense feeling of well-being.

Doing so, we’re taking advantage of our reptilian brain (yes, your reptilian brain doesn’t exist only to bother you. It can help you a lot in your life!) and our emotional brain too.

After that, stop working for 5-10 minutes.

Don’t panic. Leaving your mind free will make you perform better to “attack” this second task.

Nothing’s bad will happen for these 5-10 “wasted” minutes. Again, it’s not a matter of life or death.

Whenever you’re back and begin executing it, forget about the first one and the third one, just focus on this task. It’s your duty. Put all your energy into it!

Continue this process with the rest of the tasks. As you can see, it’s intuitive and easy.

Takeaways

  • I did this process today. I reduced my today’s tasks to 8. Only 3 of them were mandatory to be done today. Not only did I do them. I also did 3 more later on. Think time will always be on your side.
  • I’ve been practicing this method for 5 years, and I still feel that little anxiety/overwhelming sensation when these scenarios appear. You don’t have to worry about it. We’re humans. Our reptilian brain is so powerful that we have to fight with him almost every day to drive our lives by rationality, managing at the same time our emotions. The point is to use this procedure as soon as possible. The sooner you do it, the better you will feel and perform.
  • We have a whole day long in front of us. That’s a HUGE amount of time. We have to take it easy and look for performing at our highest level.
  • Never think about time. Just focus on relaxing, planning, and executing each task. You’ll see that you even have time left after doing everything.
  • This is a psychological game between our reptilian brain and our thinking brain, with our emotional brain interfering too. We have to always move towards the thinking one. When we understand that, and we have this kind of procedures well established in our behavior, it’s just a matter of time getting things done in an unstressed way.
  • Relativizing scenarios is a must in our lives. Think about terrible scenarios to relativize your current situation. A situation is as bad as you can imagine. It’s 100% subjective. If we want to think something’s horrendous, it will be. If we want to think something’s easy, approachable, or simple, it will be.
  • Make all your brains (reptilian, emotional, and thinking) work together. Doing so is how you’ll perform at your best!

Photo at the top courtesy of Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash.

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