How to take things one day at a time–there’s a strategy to it!
I considered titling this article “How Not to Totally Freak Out” since the idea for it came when I was kind of freaking out. Just a little.
My wedding is coming up in May, and being the pretty organized person that I am, I’ve created a timeline so that I know when to order my invitations, when to apply for a marriage license, and when to get my dress altered—among many other must-dos. I even created a bridal beauty timeline.
This morning I realized that there are only 4 months between now and the wedding—and the general timeline is looking super packed! I created my timeline to help me remember everything that needed to be done—but mostly to keep me feeling calm. Why should I stress about cake testing right now if that’s not scheduled until March?
But the magic trick wasn’t working this morning. I had the blood-draining feeling that I just wasn’t going to get everything done. My mind was in five different places, and I couldn’t focus a single thing for more than a few minutes.
Even though this is the first time I’ve been married, this brand of panic is pretty familiar to me. When I was in school, the middle of the semester would find me a flustered mess. It didn’t matter that I was one of those annoyingly prepared students, I was overwhelmed every time I thought of all the papers I had to write before the end of the term!
Just take things one day at a time, my dad would reassure me over the phone. This never failed to rally me. I’d chill out, spend some time planning the rest of the term in more detail, and then focus on the things in front of me that day. It’s a pretty simple saying, but it helped me make sense of my life—until the next semester rolled around, of course.
This morning, I reminded myself of that old adage, and I had an important realization:
Taking things one day at a time is much easier when you have a detailed plan for the upcoming weeks/months. This may seem counterintuitive since having a detailed plan for the next several weeks or months means thinking about the many days ahead—and potentially stepping into anxiety-territory for a while—but that’s okay. It’s worth it.
For me, the anxiety of wedding to-dos stems from uncertainty (as does most of my anxiety!). I knew I have to do x, y, and z, but I didn’t know exactly how or when, and this uncertainty was making me jittery. In August (when I drafted my timeline), it was enough to know that I was going to get my dress altered in February, but now that it’s late January, I need to create a more concrete plan about that activity (to complete it efficiently and in a sane manner).
For example, I feel a little more at ease if I say: During the first week of February, I will research wedding tailors in the area and make some contacts. I will book an appointment by the second week of February. My budget for alterations is: $X.
It only takes a few minutes to draft up a little plan like this, but it can save hours of stress. After my freak out this morning, I did this for all of my wedding to-dos from now until the end of March. On any given day, I’ll at least know where to focus my energy—and then I’ll know how to “take things one day at a time.” Thank you, detailed plan!
Now you try:
1. Do you have an upcoming project/task/goal that’s causing you lost sleep?
2. If possible, break the task into smaller parts that may last a day or a few days.
3. Next, grab your calendar and chart out when you will take each step to complete the ultimate goal. Give yourself plenty of time for this. Such detailed planning will actually save you time in the long run. Also, be sure to incorporate a bit of flexibility. For example, you may want to designate “open” days. Nothing is scheduled on these days, so you can use them to catch up if something comes up.
4. Now, take a deep breath. Allow your calendar to guide you each day. Knowing what to do when will make a difference in the way you feel about the task.
What are your tips for staying productive and (mostly) anxiety-free?
More anxiety tips: 5 Ways to Overcome Anxiety Attacks!
10 Ways to Manage Time Efficiently
3 Ways to Recommit to Your Career
Photo: Mary Hood, Harpiscello via Flickr