How to Reduce Your Anxiety in 5 Simple Steps

Step 3: Stop Overscheduling Yourself

In the first 2 weeks of this series, I gave you two suggestions to help you reduce your anxiety. The first one, trying a news fast, hopefully freed up some time in your schedule so that you could fit in the second one, meditation.  This week, however, we’re going to focus on your schedule.

I want you to stop reading this for just a moment.  Grab your planner or look at the calendar app on your phone.  Now look at your to-do list.  Is there space on your calendar to schedule in everything on that to-do list?  I’m guessing there probably isn’t.

So what?  Why would that matter?  Well, pause for a second and think about everything on that list.  Now think about all the other things you “need” to do that aren’t even on that list.  Now look around your house and think about all the other things you just noticed that you “need” to do.  How do you feel?

An enormous source of anxiety for my clients comes from the expectations they place on themselves and their time.  They schedule themselves from dawn to dusk with work and family obligations and then, at the end of every week, they beat themselves up because they didn’t get to nearly as many things on their never-ending to-do lists as they would have liked.

Sound familiar?

If you enjoy setting yourself up for failure and disappointment every week, then stop reading, but, if that isn’t really your thing, then it’s time to reimagine your relationship with your time. Time is our most valuable commodity, but most of us don’t treat our time that way.  Rather than placing value on all the time we have and deciding exactly how we want to spend it, we place value on the things we scheduled to get done and then we constantly tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time.

This week I’m going to ask you to stop overscheduling yourself.  How do you do that? Simply sit down with your calendar at the beginning of the week and make a REALISTIC plan.  Most of my clients spend about an hour a week doing this to start, but, as time goes on, it often doesn’t take nearly that long.  Here are the steps:

  1. Make a list of everything you need to do for the week and then categorize each item as high, medium, or low priority.
  2. Put each of these tasks on your calendar in order of priority.  You’re not going to be sure how long some of these things are going to take, but that’s ok.  Take your best guess.  This is about actually making a commitment to yourself about when you are going to do these things and being realistic about whether you really have time to do these things.  You will get better at estimating.
  3. f there’s anything left over on your to-do list for the week, examine those things.  Do you need to make an adjustment to fit one of them in?  If not, move them to either your next week’s list or to something I call my Someday List.  This is a list that I keep at the back of my planner.  It contains projects like framing and hanging old vacation photos and reorganizing my fabric stash.  I know eventually I’ll do those things but not this week.  I consult this list when I have extra time and when I’m feeling like being productive.
  4. Now all you must do is what you’ve scheduled when you’ve scheduled it. Your brain may want to try to convince you that you should be doing more, but it’s wrong. Trust that, when you did your schedule, you made the best decision about how to spend your time.  There are also going to be times where you’re not going to want to do what you scheduled but do it anyway.  

This process helps to reduce your anxiety because now you know exactly when each thing you need to do will happen.  You know you have the time to get these things done and you’re no longer allowing your brain to burden you by focusing on all of the things you’re not going to realistically get done this week. As I work with my clients on this process, the next step is that we start to look at their schedules every week and we compare how they’re actually spending their time with their priorities about how they want to spend that time.  If you’d like to do that, I’d love to work with you.