I don’t know about you, but when things start to pile up on my desk and in my inbox (my ongoing task list) I get STRESSED! The more piles and longer lists, the more anxious and distracted I get. And there is an endless list of case studies of what an incredible energy drain stress and anxiety are. So needless to say, as things pile up my energy leaks out in every direction and I become a pretty pathetic mess. I forget things. I lash out irrationally. I start craving junk food (as if that’s going to fix things – lol).
At first, I’ll start trying to find ways to “plug the leaks”. During the day, I keep a small notebook next to me so that while I’m working on one thing, I can jot down other tasks that come to mind so I don’t forget about them but also don’t get distracted from my current task. Today was one of those days where my small notebook page was overflowing with reminder tasks, some of which were pretty emotionally weighted: things like “Contact an attorney to get advice about my open claim about my car accident” and “Email a tech client who recently cancelled services”. The emotion of each of these pending tasks only served to increase the amount of stress, thus creating an even bigger leak of energy for each of those unfinished tasks.
It got to the point that the small notebook list beside me was “so loud” in my head, that I could no longer focus on anything else. I began dreading doing anything. I had no energy left to draw from for my current task. So I stopped to regroup. And then I picked out the item that felt the most emotionally weighted from my list, and JUST DID IT. No more saving that energy drain for later. I didn’t have the resources available to continue maintaining that unfinished task. When I called the attorney, it actually was a really positive conversation and I felt renewed hope about getting help to deal with the insurance company of the woman who ran into my car. Then I picked the next most-emotionally-heavy task on that little sheet and completed that step. And I got a little lighter. And the next and the next and the next.
By the time I’d finished working through that whole list, I’d also taken the last few small tasks (with no emotional weight) and scheduled them for first thing tomorrow morning to follow up on – putting actual, planned time on my calendar and allowing me to check them off of the “do them later list”. It was at this moment I realized, if I keep adding things to that list and then keep saving that list until “last”, I’m expending TONS of energy just to carry around the “what ifs” and emotions of those tasks, sometimes for several days. Yikes! And so the new lesson and application today is, PUT THE LAST FIRST! Schedule specific time, right away, and eliminate any and all energy drains you can right at the start of your day – or at the moment you become aware that there is an energy leak. That gives you back complete presence on whatever tasks you still have to do and FULL energy available to you – no energy leaks draining you and pulling your attention away.
Also published on Medium.