The Stress-Reducing Power of a List

Recently I was sitting at my desk and I could not quiet my head.

I was thinking of all the stuff I had to do…it seemed as though there were so many things to be done—either started, continued, or completed—that I really could not figure out what to do at all. I was paralyzed.

Part of my problem was just my own case of ADD (it’s mild…but I do warn audiences before I begin to speak). But the other part of the issue was simply part of being human. As author Eckhart Tolle explains, we humans are “compulsive thinkers.” We dwell on things of the past; we project things into the future, all to the neglect of, in Tolle’s words, the “eternal present.”

Indeed, this human dynamic wreaks havoc on our productivity—especially when it comes to tasks that we may be inclined to avoid. Further, it causes us to lose focus.

This is an issue we have addressed here before. Some time ago we acknowledged that because there are so many ways to prospect for your business or career, it is best to simply take “two or three nuggets”—or prospecting ideas—and focus on those. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed.

In the same manner, if you find yourself feeling this way with too much to do and not able to prioritize, I would suggest you make an effort to forget about projecting into the future all that you believe has to be done. Indeed, if you have not written your tasks down on a list, get out a clean notepad or sheet of paper and simply list them out in black and white.

Believe me or ask anyone who has done this…this exercise of simply making a list is the most productive activity you can do when you find yourself in an unproductive state.

Just list out the action items. Don’t try to order them in any way. Then, once your list is done, take a blank index card, and write down JUST ONE of those activities.  Then set the list aside—out of site or out of the room if necessary.

The one card is all you have, and is all you will do. The item on the card is what you will do NOW. Focus on that task and nothing else. If you find yourself becoming distracted, pick up the card, hold it and look at it. Use it as a tool to stay focused.

FOCUS is everything. As one mentor always said to me, “Focus beats brilliance…every time!”

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