Have you ever felt like you just have too much to do and it's getting you more and more stressed? And it seems like even if you take action and try to make progress, you're not getting anywhere because more things keep coming? You want to take a holiday to relax and get away from it all, but you can't because you've got too much to do!
You CAN feel peaceful even when you have a LOT to do. Here is how to get there:
Step One to Peace: You don't have to do everything!
One of the secrets to peaceful productivity is not to try and accomplish everything. Instead, it's all about feeling at peace even when you have a huge number of things to do. This doesn't mean just relaxing and going down to the beach. It means focusing on the highest priority items on your list and not feeling stressed to get everything else done. Often you can find yourself more productive when you are working in this manner because you are not all over the place doing several things at once. Instead, you are highly focused on the important stuff, so your productivity increases, while at the same time your stress levels decrease.
Let's say you have 250 things on your to-do list. You can't do everything, so you prioritize. And you start focusing on your priorities. But what do you do with all the other stuff? One option is not to worry about it at all--completely ignore it until you have completed your priority items. By consciously procrastinating about these less important items, often you will find that many of them don't really need to be done when you think about them again a few weeks later. Another option that should not be missed is to delegate as much as you can to other people.
Step Two to Peace: Strategic elimination
Another related and powerful concept is strategic elimination. This is where you eliminate all the non-essential items that are building up in your life. Items that you are not really very committed to. Do you have a project in your life that's really not that important? How would it feel to eliminate it completely?
Step Three to Peace: Making sure your to-do list is complete
Part of the stress that comes from having a lot of things to do is that you are juggling these projects in your mind. You are constantly thinking about them and worrying about them. Do you ever have the thought, “Oh yeah, I remember I've got to do that also.” Then because you are busy, you don't get around to it and a few days later you have the thought again, “Oh yeah I have to do that” … and the thought stresses you out because you know you want to do it, but you can't get around to it.
Instead of storing this information about what you need to do in your head, put it down on paper. You will feel less stress as you start to rely on your to-do lists as a repository and reminder for all the things that you need to do. The reason for the decreased stress is that now you don't have to think about these things. You can have faith in the fact that you have decided on your top priorities and you are working through them. And because you have written down everything on your to-do lists, you know that you are not missing anything.
It's more peaceful to write down exactly what you need to do. This way you can also be more realistic about what's possible for you to do. If you have a whole lot of things on your list that you never get to, then you can start to be realistic about the fact that you probably never will get to them. When you keep the information in your head, however, it's harder to have that same realistic perspective of what you can accomplish in your life.
So as you write it all down you can trust in your system. You can also trust that you are truly focusing on what is important and that you are not missing anything. After all, there are only a certain number of things that you can physically do. If you are truly doing all you can and are working on the most important stuff, then there is no need or point in worrying about it.
Step Four to Peace: Recovery cycles
Working six hours straight without a break is not heroic. It's ineffective. Your brain won't work efficiently unless you take adequate breaks to let it rest and recuperate. You should work for a maximum of two hours and then take at least a 15-minute break. During your break you should not watch TV and you should not be half-working during the break (that's not a proper break!). Instead do some exercise, get a light snack, go for a walk, have a conversation with a friend, or do something else that relaxes you and is truly downtime.
It's also very important to get regular exercise and enjoy a good diet. Exercise is proven to reduce stress significantly, so you will be able to cope with a lot more stressful stuff if you are exercising regularly. I'm talking about the sort of exercise where you raise your heart rate and sweat a little. It could be a brisk walk, a swim or running, for example.
Step Five to Peace: Stress often comes from things that you are not doing anything about!
Often the things that stress us most in life are things that we actually are not taking any action on at all, but instead are just worrying about. For example, you might be worried about your mother's health. Or you might be a woman turning 40 and you're not in a relationship so you're worried that you're never going to have a baby. Or you might be having certain kind of health issues.
This is big stuff and obviously if we are stressed about it, it's something that we haven't yet figured out how to deal with. Part of the reason why we are stressed about it is because we are probably not doing anything about it. So one of the secrets to eliminating this kind of stress is to first of all decide on an outcome for this area of your life, and then take action steps and review these actions regularly. You can discover more about this process in the article on How to solve any problem in your life.
Step Six to Peace: Watch your stressful language
You can learn how to relax and be at peace in situations that previously were stressful to you. One way to do this is to watch your language around it. The next time you say, “I'm so stressed about this,” catch yourself and say to yourself instead, “I'm a little stressed, but I'm learning how to relax more and more about it.” The way you talk to yourself about the situation has a powerful impact on the way that you feel.
Step Seven to Peace: What are the true consequences?
You might be stressed because you have an imaginary fear that you might lose your job if you don't do all this work. What is it that you fear? Is this fear real? Likely the situation that you fear is not real or is exaggerated. Instead, take a wider perspective on your situation. Does it really matter that much if you do this stuff or not? Probably it's not anywhere near as big of a deal as you make it out to be in your mind.
The Final Step to Peace: What is positive about this stressful situation?
When you have stress in your life it's usually because you are fighting with the reality of a situation in your head. Somehow you think that it should not be the way that it is.
When you fight with reality you lose.
Whatever it is that you are stressed about, consider the perspective that it is perfect exactly the way it is right now. Think of five things you are truly grateful for in your life. Write them down. Then think, “What are the positive consequences of this supposedly negative stressful situation?” That type of perspective, of gratitude in your life in general and of looking for the positive in every stressful situation, will help you to be a lot less stressed.
So, combine these concepts together and you will find the secrets to having a lot of things to do but still feeling at peace. And, at the same time, you can increase your productivity. It's a misunderstanding to think that stress increases productivity. As we become stressed our brain shuts down and is not able to think as clearly, and so we are usually less productive when stressed. Working peacefully truly is the most productive way to work.