Today I want to talk to you about a simple intervention that can decrease stress and anxiety, and improve productivity in your life: Write everything down.
I remember one time I woke up in the middle of the night feeling anxious. There were a couple of things on my mind. I had a meeting coming up for a grant I was on. I had to do a presentation for the meeting, and I hadn’t prepared or thought about my presentation yet. So I woke up thinking about it.
I also remembered I had forgotten about two work emails I needed to send. The emails were on my mind as I tossed and turned in my bed at 3 o’clock in the morning.
I imagine if I had just tried to go back to sleep, I would have struggled to do so, because of the things running through my mind. My mind was not at peace. So what did I do? I got up, even though it was annoying, and I wrote down the things I was thinking about in my datebook. I put them on my to-do list for the next day. After I did this, I was able to go back to sleep, assured that I would deal with the tasks the following day.
Another area of my life where it helps me to write everything down is my workouts. When I do a workout, I try to record the weights that I did. CrossFit has certain workouts called ‘benchmark workouts’ that are repeated occasionally. When I do one of these workouts, I record how long it took me to finish the workout. That way, when I do a workout again, I can check and see if I improved. Also, I can decide whether I want to push myself and lift heavier weights. As Tony Horton once said, “How do you know what to DO, if you don’t know what you DID?”
I also try to keep a notebook in my briefcase, and next to my bed at night. Sometimes ideas for a research project or book come to me at weird times. Intuition isn’t always a 9 to 5 thing. When I get an idea, I always try to write it down. Most of the ideas don’t amount to anything. But sometimes… they do! If I didn’t write it down, the idea would be lost forever.
If you find you have a tendency to feel worried or anxious throughout your day, try writing everything down. Keep a list of things you have to do, and write things down immediately when they come to mind. Then give yourself a specific time you will deal with the items on the list. Better to take an hour out of your day to specifically focus on your worries, rather than let your worries dominate your entire day and night.
Try keeping a journal. Research has found that simply writing about your problems and struggles can help a person feel better about them. It helps to express your thoughts and feelings. There is something therapeutic about it. Also, the process of organizing your thoughts and feelings helps to provide a sense of structure or story for your life, which we all need.
Finally, keep track of your ideas. You never know when you might think of something that could change the world!
Discussion: What has your experience been with writing things down? Has it helped you to feel less anxious and stressed?