I’m one of those people who have a lot of dreams and interests. Every single day I wake up, I’m slightly overwhelmed by everything I want to get done in the day.
My typical day involves writing, assigning work to my interns and managing them, 3 hours of training as a dancer, creating and editing a dance video, and attending to my house chores.
If you’re like me, then you might also struggle with the constant anxiety that comes with overflowing to-do lists.
But, what if I told you it’s completely possible to optimize your workflow for calmness. Yes, calmness, not productivity. Because when you’re calm, you automatically stop chasing productivity and just get things done!
1. Focus on ‘completing’ the tasks
When anxious, you might end up jumping from one task to another. Do you ever feel like you were working all day but didn’t really get anything done as planned?
Multitasking makes you feel like you’re accomplishing a lot. But the reality is quite different. You just tire yourself out by keeping your brain loaded all the time.
Remember 3 completed tasks are better than 20 half-way, half-heartedly done tasks.
Of course, this requires us to approach our to-do lists in a way that removes overwhelm. There are many ways to do this.
Firstly, avoid making that seemingly endless list of things-to-do in a task management app. You can simply create a minimalist bullet journal daily spread to write down your tasks by hand.
While writing down your daily work tasks, take the help of following frameworks.
- The 1–3–5 rule — In this method, your to-do list only consists of 1 big task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks. Making a 1–3–5 list means that you will accomplish the most important tasks first instead of staying occupied with smaller tasks while avoiding the important ones.
- The rule of 3 — Proposed by Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project, the rule of 3 refers to only having three items to focus on throughout the day. You prioritize and focus your energy on your top 3 items, and tackle smaller tasks as time permits from there.
2. Start and end your day with a calm mind
Do you find yourself not able to stop thinking about all that needs to be done, ever? If your mind is always occupied with thoughts, there’s less mental energy to actually accomplish those tasks. Welcome procrastination!
A good sleep at night and a good start to the day are the two things that can help you clear your mind. They help you get rid of mental chaos and start fresh every single day.
For this reason, a lot has been said about the importance of night rituals and morning rituals. These practices ground you and help you find mental peace.
For instance, I’ve observed that drinking Chamomile tea or a relaxing green tea infusion helps me sleep a lot better at night. I’ve also observed that journaling right after I sit down to work helps me get rid of any mental clutter and focus well on the tasks at hand.
Now, this is what works for me. You’ll have to spend some time understanding what helps you stay calm.
- Things to experiment with for your morning ritual — Waking up at a fixed time every day, going for a walk or a run, meditating, journaling, yoga.
- Things to experiment with for your night ritual — Reading, drinking relaxing tea, avoiding screen 30 minutes before bedtime, meditating.
You can also create a weekly log to draw any correlation about how they impact your sleep and overall productivity.
You can also keep a log of your sleeping patterns by using a sleep tracker to understand what is the optimum amount of sleep that you need to perform your best.
3. Work or don’t work
We all have patterns that we fall back to when we’re feeling too anxious or overwhelmed. We might sit on the work desk but keep scrolling our Twitter feed mindlessly. If not that, we might just busy ourselves with opening and marking dozens of newsletters in our inbox as read.
The problem with these things is that you lose the time that you could simply spend ‘relaxing’.
Do not punish your anxious mind by making yourself sit on the work-desk, attending to mindless activities. Give yourself a break. Either work or don’t work.
Just like keeping a list of 3 tasks, it also helps to keep your work limited to a few fixed hours. You will be surprised by how much you can accomplish in just 3 hours of deep work as opposed to sitting with your laptop all day.
- Fix your work hours and put them to good use —Put your phone in airplane mode. Use a Pomodoro timer to form a habit to work without getting distracted.
- After your work hours, call it a day and turn off your laptop —Start an off-work creative project to have fun. For instance, you can launch a podcast to talk about your interests, create doodles in your art journal or just fill one page writing about new and creative things to write about.
Apart from these practices, a good amount of planning and clarity about your goals further helps in staying calm. Once you know where you’re headed, you can relax and just focus your energy on what needs to be done.
If you’re struggling with establishing your work goals, you should take out some time for the same. If you don’t feel truly convinced about the tasks on your to-do list, it will be hard to show up every day and take action.
Get clarity about your tasks and then approach them strategically. Sit on your work desk with the intention of getting specific work done. And once you’re done with it, be done with it completely.
Previously Published on Medium