It has been repeatedly proven by studies that happiness is directly related to stress. The less stress you have in your life, the happier you will be. You can buy all the fancy things you want, live a luxurious life and eat all of your favorite things but even then, happiness wouldn’t last if large amounts of stress plagues your daily existence.
Living in the times we live, we don’t have to worry about the basics of life; neither do we have to bother with our daily existence. In most cases, the stress we usually feel is a direct result of things we are supposed to do in our day to day life. Things as simple as grocery shopping, to as complex as the next big project that you have to complete at work.
Such kind of unnecessary stress not only stops us from feeling happy and content, it also leads to sheer anxiety that affects our ability to function, especially in a work scenario. Notice I said, unneeded stress, because it really is so. Especially when you consider that with a little bit of planning, you can remove a large part of it, if not eliminate it completely.
So how exactly do you plan ahead and reduce your stress?
1. Make a To-Do List
At first, this might seem like generic advice. Pretty much every article on life management or planning in general, reiterates the importance of a to-do list and there is a reason for that—it simply makes life that much easier.
Now you do not need to buy or download a paid app or follow a methodology like Getting Things Done. Paper and pen is all you need. We really love the Bloom Daily Planner to help keep organized and plan out the day. You can jot down the important tasks, times, shopping lists and even health goals for the day. If you're like me and struggle to plan ahead, this planner is a must-have.
Before you sleep, simply make a list of all the things you need to accomplish the next day. This is for your eyes only, so go ahead and write every little thing down. From big office tasks to something as simple as, "wash the car". You will be surprised how many little things you end up putting on the list, that you otherwise would’ve forgotten.
By making a list such as this, you will have a clear idea of what you are supposed to accomplish on a given day and this by itself, will reduce half your stress, since you are not forced to rely on memory alone.
At this stage, you can start assigning tasks to different parts of the day. Maybe you can slot "pay cellphone bill" during lunch break at work or "buy stationary" to when you are commuting between meetings. As you can see, this will allow you to end up with a clear blueprint for the next day.
2. Momentum is Everything
If you think about it, you will realize that we spend most of our time thinking, making choices and wondering about what we are supposed to do next. When you make a list, you do not have to waste time doing any of those energy draining activities.
As you go about your day, completing tasks and checking them off your to do list, it will build moment. Think of it like a video game—as you keep getting past various stages, the more eager you are to keep going and achieve 100% completion. This momentum is what successful people speak of, when they talk about getting things accomplished.
Before you know it, your to do list will be wiped clean and you will end the day with a strong sense of accomplishment. As days go by, this habit will become stronger and you will be rid of procrastination, which as we know, is a huge cause of stress and anxiety.
3. Keeping the Long Term Picture in Mind
You definitely must have heard or read about ‘long term planning’ some time or another. You must plan for the future. Think five years ahead. You need a long term plan, are some of the lines that are thrown around while talking about this subject.
Sounds daunting at first but it doesn't have to. As that famous quote goes, the journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Don’t go about building a five year plan on day one of planning.
Stick to the to do list formula and let it sink in over a week or so. Then slowly, start planning out your life in terms of weeks. Again, everything you do daily will lead to the accomplishment of your weekly goals. At this stage, you are ready to expand it to months.
Do you want to complete the first draft of your thesis in a month from now? Great! Set a completion date and divide the process into daily tasks that go on your daily to do list. No need to wonder about the next step and no need to stress about whether you are doing enough.
When you have the whole process leading up to the completion stage charted in front of you, you won’t have to worry about anything at all.
Years are made up of months and months are made up of days. So start by mastering daily planning and then expand it to cover a larger part of the calendar.
4. Planning Down Time is Important Too
A lot of people, in the quest to be super productive, either keep working at a breakneck pace or keep working without any breaks. This is more counter-productive than anything else you can do.
It is very crucial to plan out some time when you can relax or spend time with loved ones. Sleep for instance, is very important if you want your mind to function at its optimum level and if you want to get enough of it, you must plan a time by when you would be in bed.
Similarly, plan an hour or more of your day for leisure. Read a favorite book, watch a TV show or simply take a walk around. Don't leave it to chance, put it in your to do list if you it is something that have to do. Your body and mind need relaxing and there is no way around it.
To sum it up, if stress reduction is your goal then make planning your best friend. Start by planning a day first and then expand it to cover a broader horizon. Keep it up for a considerable duration of time, and you will wonder why you used to stress about stress so much.
Check out our 170 more stress management techniques.