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Manage Stress with Daily Goals

Manage Stress with Daily Goals
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You’ve got your big project to work on. The deadline for your goals is looming over your shoulder. You are starting to feel it’s hot breath of guilt whenever you aren’t working. Socializing with your friends, taking a break, even just going to sleep now seems like it is just wasting time. When you are working you feel tired and drained and when you aren’t working you can’t really rest because of the nagging feeling that you simply aren’t doing enough.

Burnout is a big problem when you are working towards goals. Your goals become so motivating, that doing anything not directly related to their achievement seems wasteful. Half of you wants to recover your energy to go back with full force and the other believes you are just wasting time.

In their groundbreaking book on Energy Management, Tony Schwarz and Jim Loehr, they make the case that managing energy cycles, not just time is the key to peak productivity. From their work with companies, they begin applying the secrets of world class athletes. The secrets of resting to recover energy between periods of hard work. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and it will cause your productivity to go down in flames.

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After reading this book and various other works on the subject of energy management, these ideas sound great. Unfortunately, there really isn’t an effective system for putting them into place. How do you draw the line between resting the right amount for full performance and just being lazy? How can you create a system for managing your
stress?

The best system I found is also one of the most simple. Get yourself a binder or notepad that you can refer to throughout the day. Before you go to bed each night, write down all the things you want to accomplish the next day. These are your daily goals. As you work the next day check off the items on your daily goal list.

How It’s Different Than Traditional “To-Do” Lists

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Some of you might start saying to yourself, “It’s my to-do list that is causing me to burnout in the first place! When I look at all the things I have to do I start feeling guilty when I’m not working!” Daily goals are very different than a to-do list.

Your daily goals list only contains the things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Those familiar with the Next Actions lists in the GTD system will notice that those lists contain everything you need to do. Daily goals are separate from to-do lists because it only contains activities for tomorrow.

Secondly you don’t add things to today’s goals. I almost never make additions to today’s list during the day unless something unexpected comes up that needs to be handled immediately. If I need to do work, it get’s put on my to-do list for the next day. This way you know from when you wake up how much is on your plate for each day.

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How Daily Goals List Prevents Burnout

Once you complete all the actions on your goals list, the rest of the time is yours. Relax, socialize and do whatever you want, by completing your daily goals you have earned it. You don’t have your to-do list looming over your shoulder because your new tasks won’t be updated until the next day.

What this allows you to do is it helps you find out what amount of workload is a light, moderate or strenuous day for you. So if your deadline is coming up fast and you have a lot of energy, a few weeks of this practice will allow you to schedule in enough work so that you will work hard throughout the day to accomplish all your goals. If you have
a bit more flexibility, you can make your goals lighter so that you can fit in more recovery time.

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Your daily goal list is like setting the temperature on your stress thermostat. Too little stress and you are getting nowhere and aren’t improving. Too much stress for too long and you hit burnout. Daily goal lists let you take control so you can temporarily ramp up your productivity or slow it down to properly manage your energy.

Eventually by using this technique and systematically creating hard days followed by lighter ones, you can increase your productivity. Professional bodybuilders take time to stress their muscles followed by periods where the muscle tissue can be rebuilt. You can apply the same process to your work by setting hard days followed by lighter days. Set your daily goals so you can get more done and feel less stress.

Scott Young is a University student who writes about personal development, productivity and goal setting. Scott is currently writing his first book, Personal Evolution, which will be available in the fall. You can learn more about Scott or read hundreds of other articles at his website.

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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