Turn Anxiety into Positive Action

In the always-on bottle rocket economy, in which creative contributors spend their extended waking hours in simultaneous and schizophrenic bouts of digital grazing, conference calls, work tasks, social media…it’s no surprise anxieties and hypertension have overtaken the workforce.

I had an interview the other day with Chip Conley, Founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre (and killer TED speaker) and learned a cool emotional equation trick he is debuting in his new book. It’s common to feel overwhelmed with looming deadlines, and dueling projects. Here are a few tricks you can try to take control.

Understand You Have More Control Than You Think
We tend to fixate on what we can’t control or have little influence over. Try this from Chip Conley. It’s about turning negative stress in to positive challenge. Think of a project, task, or effort you are involved in and write down all of the things you have control and power over.

Now write down the things you think you have little or no control or power over. In Chip’s experience trying this out on hundreds and hundreds of leaders, they come to realize the number of elements they do have control and power over is surprisingly higher than they realized. And by clearly identifying and sharing pieces they think they have no control over, they realize quickly the people resources and available insights are more immediate and readily accessible than previously thought.

Understand Where You Spend Your Time
One tip from Martin Seligman. Weigh what your goals are against how you spend your time. Write down three to five things you really want to accomplish. Then keep track of how you actually spend your time. You can try reflecting on the past week or looking through your calendar from the last month, but in his experience, a better measure is to actually measure. Post a white board in your office or kitchen – or places you frequent – and jot down the time you spend on activities. It might surprise you the difference between time invested and stated goals.

Take Action
Now do something. That’s right, just get in motion. I heard a cool adage recently, “the amount of time it takes you to accomplish anything is equal to the amount of time you have to do it.” In other words, if you have two weeks to do the presentation, it will take two weeks. If you have two hours, it takes two hours. So my final advice in taking control is to self-impose deadlines and act. In my experience, the big project I’ve been putting off takes very little actual time. Or as my new friend Alexander Kjerulf likes to say, we are always choosing, since inaction is also a choice. So choose to act.