Quieting your Mind’s To-do list

Do you ever wake up some mornings and you can quite literally feel the cogs of your inner mind whirring out of control; spinning over your daily or weekly or – god forbid – monthly to-do list, the wheels grating against each other and silently shrieking in panic?

It’ll only be 9am and you’ll already be worrying if there’s enough hours in the day to get it all done. Perhaps you make a list so you can visualise your tasks and yes, it may give you a short burst of relief realising it still fits onto one page, but then will come the hesitant anxiety of Where to Start. You feel agitated, y and exhausted, and end up unable to focus on what it is that needs doing anyway.

Good morning. Today is another one of those mornings.


I know I have an anxious mind. I overworry and overthink, then I overthink about my worrying. I have made an effort to be ‘spontaneous’ but I just end up feeling mildly sick over the gaping holes of uncertainty, so the next time I end up sticking to vigorous planning instead.

I know with overthinking comes the incessant internal to-do list; I’ve admitted it to myself but not fully accepted it yet. I still label it as a flaw (which in itself is a flaw as I know in order to be fully okay with myself) I need to not overthink being an overthinker. But I’m not quite there yet and I feel it’s something that still holds me back from a lot of things and keeps me from being ‘present‘, from really living.

So this year I want to get better at with it dealing with it  – a New Years resolution if you will.

I started a little last year and I’m finding that certain things are really like helping me. Like:

It helps to breathe.

(I know, who’d have thought?) But not just the regular ‘out-in-out-in for the sake of staying alive’ kind of breathing. The kind when you focus on what it feels like when your ribcage is full of air and the sound your body makes when it all comes rushing out of you. The kind where you push the Pounding Worry from the forefront of your mind right to the back, and just let it be there. The kind where you let your thoughts take a break from the busyness of everyday life and give yourself five minutes to just Be. And the beauty of this is you can quite literally do this anywhere (although a word of advice – you will get concerned stares in public toilets as these sounds can also be confused with aggressive constipation).

Putting ‘one foot in front of the other’. 

While your laptop may be able to have lots of tabs open at once, your brain isn’t an Intel processor. Stop trying to get too many things done at once; take it one step at a time. Write a list and work your way through your to-do’s in order of importance and deadline. Try to focus on the task at hand rather that ticking as many boxes as possible, otherwise you’ll rush it and make things twice as hard or end up cleaning up a mess.

The Golden Rule is the 2-minute Rule. 

If you can do something in two minutes, do it. Have you ever actually sat down and counted to 120? It’s actually quite a long time – long enough to make that phone call or send that email. By adding a mediocre-two-minute task to your internal list of woes you will probably spend four times as long stressing over it than you could’ve done by simply doing it. Plus you get an amazing sense of relief once you’re able to cross that off (God I need hobby). Speaking of minutes and time, this one is closely followed by…

The ‘there is always time’ Mantra.

“But I finish work at half five and then need to cook and have dinner, and the new episode of Luther is on so that’s another hour, and I want to get an early night as well because I’ve got an early start and tomorrow I’m in meetings all day…” – a brief excerpt from the diary of I Don’t Have Enough Time, a universally owned copy. Stop – there is always time. You can always make time for something you really need to do, it just might be a case of rearranging the less important ones. Luther will still be there on iPlayer another day. Ask a friend to help you out with dinner tonight. Tick off a task in your lunch break. Stop wasting your time worrying about time.

Your best is good enough.

Sometimes a to-do will have a lot of expectation riding on it, and it’s easy to let that pressure weigh you down with worry. At the end of the day, you can only do what you can do. I find if I scrutinise too much over something being ‘right‘ or ‘good enough‘ I end up measuring myself against unrealistic ideals and then forget what ‘good enough’ even looked like, eventually spiralling into an out of control over-panic. Once you get your head out of your worrying ass you’ll realise that it’s not such a huge deal. And anyway, if you fuck it up you can always go back and fix it after. More often than not things always work themselves out for the best.

When it gets a little too much – write it down. 

Anywhere. In a text to a friend, in a notebook, on a sticknote you’ll later throw away, or even in a blog post to share vulnerably with the rest of the world. To me, writing is a huge release when I am at my most anxious. It gives me a chance to voice things I’m unable to word in my head and make sense of the pent-up worry and internal stress. No one needs to see this, so it can be as rough and rubbish as it needs to be; but keeping negative energy inside you only ends up festering and that’s not what 2019 is going to be about.

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