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It’s okay to be stressed, just not overwhelmed!

 Does just looking at your to-do list make you dizzy? Do you find yourself finding new ways not to get anything done, only to be sitting at work at 7 p.m. stressed out of your mind?

Well, I just got some great advice from the The Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Getting the Right Work Done to help us all (additional advice available here too). Allow me to share a little exercise:

  1. Step One – stop crying, hyperventilating, texting  and complaining to others about how busy you are
  2. Step Two – sit down and stop pacing. Breath.
  3. Step Three – get a timer. Hint – there is one on your cell phone.
  4. Step Four – take out a piece of paper and write every single thing you need to do today out in no particular order. Count the personal stuff, too.
  5. Step Five – spend 15-20 minutes completing as many of the fastest tasks to get done on the list. Quick follow-up phone calls; writing a contact report; responding to short emails; making that dentist appointment; re-filling a prescription; confirming meetings for the day/week with others in writing; sending out birthday wishes on Facebook; et al. Use the timer and stay within the allotted time.
  6. Step Six – spend the next 35 minutes on the most daunting task on the list. Close all other computer windows; do not check email; do not take calls; do not engage in office small talk; just the one task at hand. Use the timer and stay within the allotted time.
  7. Step Seven – take a break for 10 full minutes. And checking emails or calling your mom does not count as a break. Use the timer and stay within the allotted time.
  8. Step Eight – repeat steps four through six. Use the timer and stay within the allotted time.

For some reason, timing ourselves motivates us, especially to finish a long list of small tasks. It also stops us from over-working ourselves on the big, stressful projects. And, if “un-generalizes” our stress and focuses it in a more efficient manner.

You will still be stressed, of course, but far less overwhelmed! Stress is actually okay, as long as it doesn’t mix into a deadly cocktail with anxiety, procrastination and feeling overwhelmed 24/7.


Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio


  1. David Landis says:

    Alison – I’ve always said: instead of complaining, take that time to jump in and begin the work that’s most onerous. You’ll find it usually takes less time to just do the work than complain about it. Cheers, David

  2. Alison Bailin says:

    Agreed! I always find that people who complain – and especially those who complain about how busy they are over and over – are often those that don’t have much to complain about in the first place…

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