When I do coaching or psychotherapy with clients who struggle with procrastination, I almost always end up discussing the topic of anxiety. Anxiety causes us to doubt our natural abilities, making us more vulnerable to procrastination and a whole host of other fears.
Anxiety is present when we fear:
- moving forward
- falling behind
- never feeling good about ourselves or our work
- never accomplishing our most significant goals because of the small stuff in the way
- failing to reach our potential
We all need to learn to co-exist with our anxiety. Anxiety will never totally go away because we need it to alert us to discomfort and danger. But we need to build our awareness about how anxiety works in order to maintain a feeling of safety and consistency within ourselves. We can do this through a daily practice of being mindful of what brings us stress and making sure we take enough action to keep our stress at manageable (and hopefully low) levels.
How to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have Anxiety
Here’s a straightforward plan to keep you steer clear of anxiety-fueled chaos:
1. Avoid seeing all of your undone tasks and unfinished things as one big pile.
Instead of ruminating over how much you have to do, start to tease out what it is that you need to do. Do not take everything on your plate and turn it into a dark cloud trailing you around town all day. It is more difficult to tackle everything than it is to tackle something. When we have too many things to do, getting something done can be a huge plus.
My favorite tool for keeping my to do list manageable is the Trello app. Take a few minutes today to try it out. I think you’ll find it helpful for avoiding to do list overwhelm.
2. Write everything down.
When we see what we need to do on paper, we can start to make a realistic plan for how to get the details taken care of. When we just sit with the anxiety and start to freak out, we reduce our odds of being able to do anything at all.
Take a small, doable section of your plan and write out your plan of attack. When will you start? How much time will you allow yourself to take? What pieces of this plan can you put down on paper right away? Don’t even think about the rest of the plan until you finish the first part.
I highly recommend you download a copy of the Emergent Task Planner to get your plan of action laid out. It’s an elegant one-page planning sheet to help you sort out how you’d like your next day to go.
Related resource: The Emergent Task Planner
3. Be patient with yourself.
When we are in a period of overwhelm, it is easy to feel drained and frustrated. Frustration makes It easy to give up on our efforts to move things forward. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to invest our efforts into having more compassion towards ourselves.
Yelling at yourself will just make matters worse.
Flinging your papers into the air will just make a mess.
Believing in yourself and allowing yourself to move forward, despite your doubts and fears, will make everything better.
Instead of giving into the negative feelings, start to coach yourself into getting the next step done. Relax your high expectations. Have faith this period of difficulty will be temporary and will soon be over.
4. Focus on your WHY
Anxiety tends to crop up when we attempt projects that are most meaningful to us. Anxiety also arises when we are trying to do something new. Keeping our focus on WHY we are doing these new projects is one of the best ways to handle the anxiety that is competing for our attention.
What is your WHY? Your WHY might be:
- your purpose in life
- using your natural talents to help others
- making the people you care about feel safe and loved
- doing your best with the resources you have
- finding new ways to solve old problems
- enjoying each day fully
Our ability to change our perspective to get us through difficult times is a tremendous skill. Make sure you remember to use your own ability to reflect and to shift your mindset next time you feel you’re about to give in to your anxiety.
Recommended viewing: How Great Leaders Inspire Action TED Talk by Simon Sinek
5. Remember that you are limitless
Anxiety forces us to focus on small quantities. Anxiety forces us to focus on what we are afraid of, which can be a small fraction of what we might actually achieve. Anxiety reminds us that we have limits and tries to make us believe we are about to mess those limits up. Anxiety gives us a distorted view of what is really going on. We can never see things for what they are when we are anxious.
So the next time you feel drained by your anxiety, focus on your abilities and potential instead. Each and every one of us has the ability and the potential to succeed despite intense feelings of anxiety. It is in our nature to do so.
Man on a Wire is my all-time favorite movie. I guarantee you will take a closer look at what you can accomplish with your one life after watching this remarkable story.
Recommended viewing: Man on a Wire
Why shrink ourselves down to smaller versions of what we might be? Instead of quaking in our boots, let’s take a breath and move forward into what we might be. Anxiety will have nothing on us. And, instead of anxiety, we will be filled with different types of feelings, like joy, pride, satisfaction, and contentment.
Before you go
I’ve created a free download containing my top 5 tips for being able to stay on track even when you are feeling anxious. Click the button below to get this list of helpful tips: