Stressed by everything you have to do?

Some time ago I heard an expression (roughly translated from Swedish):

”It is not the fact that you have many things to do that stresses you, it is the thought of having many things to do that stresses you!”

Sadly, I have forgotten who said it, but if you know, let me know so I can update these credits! Thanks!

Well, it sounds logical, doesn’t it?

It is also something I can relate to, a lot!

I have been best in class when it comes to creating “2 do”-lists. Not just one, not just two, but a lot of them, for various reasons. For work, for that specific project, for my hobby, for tasks at home, for this and that. Creating an unsustainable amount of list with absolutely no way of prioritizing tasks between them.

Did it help in any way? Well, yes, from the perspective it has helped me to put my thought on paper and helped med clear my mind (brain dumping if you will). But it also created a lot of stress due to the fact that I created a huge mountain of various tasks that had to be done, but so many that they felt overwhelming. Almost impossible to see an end to all tasks and even doubts that all tasks where doable.

In my despair I started to read everything and anything related to handling tasks, and the more I learned the more I realized that there was left to learn in this rather complex topic. But I will share my basic thoughts, and perhaps do some follow-up articles at a later date, with more in depth material.

There are a lot of ways to think and a lot of methods to apply, but my basic thoughts are as follows:

When I have a task to do I need to:

  • find out what it is I am supposed to do?
  • decide when to do it.
  • decide how to do it.
  • know where it is going to be done.

When it comes to finding out what I ned to do, I try to define it as simple describing and as possible.

  • I need to refuel the car.
  • I need to bake bread.
  • I need to send the birthday card to my cousin.

When I answer the question when I often put the task in context. I need to refuel before I run out of gas, or before I will to that long drive, or perhaps after I have done a long drive to be ready for the next adventure. When it comes to the birthday card I can count backwards from the birthday, add time for the postal service to deliver the card and then get the date (and perhaps time) when the task needs to be performed. Vad gäller födelsedagskortet kan det ju vara bra att räkna baklänges från kusinens födelsedag, hur många dagar det tar för posten att leverera kortet för att sedan veta vilken dag jag senast bör posta kortet.

The how can be simple, as in refueling, I need to bring the car to a place where they sell gas. Which rules out that I can ride my bike to the cinema or take the bus to the mall. I have to bring my car some how. When it comes to baking bread I can choose what bread, and my decision (or other given circumstances) can help me with the how.

Where can also be given, as for refueling, a gas station would be optimal, and the bread is most likely being baked at home, and not at the cinema or library. But as for the birthday card, there can be several options.

Sometimes it helps to think of a task as a single entity (a main task) or as part of a flow.

A single task could be baking bread.

A booking in your calendar could look like this:

On Saturday (date) between 10:00 and 14:00 (or 10 am and 2 pm) I will bake bread. Place: Home.

In the booking there could be a recipe for the bread you intend to bake. And it can result in a need to buy some ingredient. That could result in a new task on your todo-list.

A flow could be like this:

On Thursday (date) after work (about 17:00/5 pm) I will go to the store to buy the ingredient. On my way home I will refuel on the gas station and put the birthday card in the mailbox next to the gas station.

This becomes a flow from two different views. The first being three different tasks on the todo-list that has nothing to do with each other, but are all performed in a flow, one after another. The second being a flow between the task of baking bread and buy the ingredient. If buying the ingredient does not come before the baking bread task, it may be difficult to complete the baking bread task. The flow being that buying the ingredient needs to be performed before the baking task.