November 8, 2012
Does this sound like you? It’s 4:00 am and your eyes are wide open. Running through your head are all of the items on your TO DO list that you still haven’t gotten done. It seems that managing your medical practice requires a seemingly never-ending list of priorities that produces stress and anxiety no matter what time of day. Then you start worrying that you need your sleep to have the energy to get all of those tasks done. You toss and turn and start watching the clock – 4:15, 4:40, 5:10 – now it’s less than an hour before the alarm goes off. You start your day stressed out and tired.
Procrastinating – putting off until tomorrow what you can do today – is one of the highest preventable stressors. There are many reasons why that TO DO list keeps growing – not enough time to get everything done, too many demands, overwhelm. Overwhelm leads to procrastination; procrastination becomes paralyzing; before you know it nothing is getting done. This is a vicious cycle. It’s a tug of war of self-sabotage. Putting off these projects is really creating more stress than making the time to get them done.
So, what can you do? Here are a few tips for whittling down that TO DO list and finding stress relief:
- Take a realistic look at the TO DO list and answer these questions:
- Does everything belong there?
- What can you eliminate?
- What can you delegate to someone else?
- Are your timeframes and due dates real or self-imposed?
- Are you over-estimating your ability to get things done by putting too many items on the TO DO list?
- Make an effort to start getting projects done. This is going to take some discipline. One idea that works for me is to schedule time on my calendar to work on a project. This is an appointment with and for me. Think of it like any other appointment – dentist, hair, doctor, etc. It’s not an option to cancel the appointment.
- Reward yourself for your accomplishments. The funny thing is that actually checking items off your TO DO list gives you energy. That sense of accomplishment will fuel you to move on to the next item. This becomes a healthy cycle of building confidence in your accomplishments. And, if you need a little more incentive, then reward yourself for finishing particularly long or difficult projects. Make a coffee date with a friend, treat yourself to a movie or time to read a good book.
If you listen to Thomas Jefferson and “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” you’ll soon be on your way to a better night’s sleep, an empty TO DO list and effective stress management.
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