As a leader, I’m sure you are no stranger to juggling multiple projects and deadlines at once. If your mind is racing at the end of the day with thoughts of unfinished tasks, to-do lists, meetings, and overall anxiety — you might need to implement this 5-step process. Nick Wignall is a sleep therapist and psychologist who coined the phrase “deliberate worry.” He describes deliberate worry as “The practice of consistently making time each day to acknowledge your worries externally, and if necessary, make specific plans for addressing genuine problems.” As a business owner and someone prone to worry, I can say that this 5-step process has made a world of difference for me. Here are 5 easy steps you can put into practice today to relieve work-related anxiety:
1. Schedule a Time for Deliberate Worry
How can you show up as an effective leader if you are consumed with worry and anxiety? Instead of drowning in these emotions, schedule a dedicated time to give yourself space to worry. Many leaders are prone to pushing down their emotions for the sake of productivity, but it is much healthier to acknowledge and express your emotions — this helps prevent burnout.
I like to schedule 10 to 15 minutes before the end of the work day to have my “worry time.” As silly as it may sound, it is incredibly therapeutic to sit and process negative emotions and let them out. Perhaps you curl up with a cup of tea or grab a comforting treat…either way, recognize this time and space as yours to process and feel your emotions.
2. Do a Brain Dump
Brain dumping is a simple yet powerful technique for managing anxiety and racing thoughts. Think of it as removing all of those anxious thoughts from your mind and placing them somewhere else.
Grab your favorite pen and notebook and set a timer for 10 minutes. And just start writing. There are no rules. The purpose of this exercise is to simply remove the clutter from your mind and place it outside of yourself. You can write down to-do’s, unfinished tasks, meeting reminders, management concerns, etc. After the 10 minutes is up, your brain should feel much more relaxed, organized, and at ease.
3. Highlight Actionable Problems
Next, we want to separate hypothetical worries from actionable problems. You can use your brain dump as a starting point for this.
To identify actionable problems, Dr. Wingall suggests looking for items that are:
a) Actual problems (not hypothetical worries)
b) Urgent (they need to be done in the next day or two)
c) Things you have direct control over
As you go through this process, you might find out that your worries aren’t actionable – that you’re spending time worrying about things that are out of your control. Don’t let these types of worries take up space in your head. Reserve your time for real, actionable problems.
4. Take a Small Action to Get Going
Now that you have your list of actionable problems, I want you to write down the first small action that is necessary to tackle these problems. You may have heard the metaphor: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Here’s my list:
1. Organize offsite leadership meeting. First Small Action: Book the Airbnb that the team decided on.
2. Complete new hire onboarding. First Small Action: Schedule a block of time to meet with HR first thing in the morning.
5. Set a Reminder for Each Small Action
You’re already juggling enough between business and family life, so just make it easy on yourself and set a reminder. I find it helpful to create events in my iPhone calendar. You could also use an app or website like Trello, AirTable, or Microsoft To-Do.
Find a system that works for you and stick with it.
Now that you’ve learned this 5-step process of managing anxiety, I hope you are feeling recharged and ready to take on the world. And remember, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” – Charles Spurgeon
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