Managing Stress and Pain

If there’s one thing that I know about fairly well, it’s stress. It impacts my whole life, both physically and mentally, and can put me on a path to ruin quite quickly. With a two-month-old baby in the house, a three-year-old boy and the burden of being the breadwinner on my shoulders, things can get a little tense. When I get stressed, my body can’t cope and I find myself getting more backaches, headaches and the like. It’s a nightmare.

My solution to sorting through the madness is to be organized, and to that end I’ve regularly kept a to-do list handy. I personally use Omnifocus, a product made by The Omni Group for the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Since I always have one of those three options handy, it’s a pretty good tool to organize my life.

The only real problem with that system is that it details everything that I have to do, blocked down into blocks of time and so on. For example, take this blog post. I don’t just have to write it, I also have to copy edit the text and publish it on the blog — that’s three tasks. When I want a view that’s a bit more general, I go to the latest tool in my arsenal, a Word Notebook.

The concept with these books is fairly simple. You have a pocket-sized, lined notebook that has light circles and dots across the left-hand side of the page. You list your tasks on the lines, and then place a circle or dot next to the task to set its priority. The system looks like this:

At $9.99 for three books, I figured it was a good deal. Since I’m a big fan of Moleskine notebooks (every writer loves them), it seemed like a natural fit. When they came in the mail, it took me a few days to figure out exactly how well they’d fit into my workflow, but now I can’t imagine living without them.

Every night, just before I shut down the computer and call it a night, I pull out my notebook and write down the main things that I have to do for the following day. These are top-down views; a way for me to look at the day as a whole, without getting into the minutiae of the process. It could look like this:

  • Write blog posts
  • Edit document for Frank
  • Return Netflix DVD
  • Buy groceries
  • Clear out email

While my OmniFocus list for the day may look mammoth in comparison, this makes it quick and simple. I now have a list of the major hurdles that I have to cross for the day, and that along makes it easier for me to get things done. And the more I check off, the better I feel. it’s handy.

Sometimes, managing stress puts my gut in a mind. But now that I’m using these notebooks, things have changed for the better. In fact, I just ordered new ones last night.


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