November 18, 2022
January 30, 2023
Organisation, Planning and Mental Health
Organisation, Planning and Mental Health
We are often advised to plan our time and tasks in order to achieve our goals, whether they are professional or personal. While it is true that planning can optimise our productivity, it can also help us improve our physical and mental health. A well-designed plan outlines the work and makes us feel less overwhelmed because we know the steps needed to complete it. Planning gives us a sense of control and thus reduces anxiety about it.
The organization of our time allows us to maintain a good balance between our personal and professional lives. However, ineffective time management can have us rushing to complete projects, creating a negative impression on your colleagues and superiors, and even leaving you at risk of burnout.
Time management and Anxiety
Struggling with poor time management has many effects. It can affect your productivity at work, your personal relationships, your mental health and your overall work-life balance. A lack of planning means you never know what you need to work on next. This can leave you feeling out of control, which increases your anxiety and stress levels and further affects your decision making.
Many people with anxiety disorders struggle to manage their time appropriately. When you are anxious, you anticipate future and potential concerns. Anxiety disorders can profoundly impact our work, personal life, relationships and motivation. Anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), OCD, panic disorder, PTSD, and social anxiety disorder are extremely common.
There are different types of anxiety disorders such as:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder : presents symptoms of Excessive worrying, Chronic stress, Muscle tension, Difficulty concentrating, Change in sleep habits.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : having recurring and unwanted (obsessive) ideas or thoughts that lead to repetitive (compulsive) behaviours. Engaging in these repetitive behaviours helps with stress reduction and anxiety management.
- Panic disorder: a panic attack is characterised by an intense feeling of fear, other negative emotions, and physical distress.
- Social anxiety disorder: a type of phobia that involves overwhelming anxious thoughts and feelings along with self-consciousness related to everyday social situations.
Anxiety in general affects your cognition, your concentration levels, can make you more distracted or overwhelmed. Social anxiety can be particularly troublesome if you work in a team or collaborative environment. Anxiety is a mental illness that can be extremely debilitating, draining and exhausting. It is important to take a few days or weeks of rest after an intense period of anxiety. Its manifestations are not always visible or understood by those around us or our colleagues. It is therefore essential to discuss it.
This is also why it is important for everyone who suffers from it, pathology or not, to understand your type of planning and organisation at work. Are you easily stressed? do you feel overwhelmed? When task management turns from an annoyance into a daily struggle, step back and examine your mental health. Identifying the cause helps pinpoint the solution.
Over planning or not planning at all?
We hear this all the time: time management can help relieve stress, but a wrong approach to time management can cause anxiety. As we have just mentioned, anxiety disorders can lead to poor time management, especially when you are trying to meet all our professional and personal responsibilities. These disorders can increase two tendencies: perfectionism and procrastination.
Anxiety can sometimes reduce our motivation and make us procrastinate, and thus make you enter a vicious circle of anxiety because you are anxious about not reaching our goals and thus we procrastinate and thus we are anxious because we are really behind. The pressure to do well can push us into anxiety about not succeeding, and forces us to avoid the possibility of failure.
If you are anxious or have perfectionist tendencies, starting to work may be a task for you. In this case, regardless of your time management skills, you will often find yourself rushing through your projects. Perfectionism can also trap us in an anxious cycle in which we are doomed to get everything done perfectly in record time. The pressure to do well can push us into the anxiety of not succeeding, and force us to do even more.
So how to reduce stress and anxiety and improve wellbeing by planning?
When done right, planning can help us take control of our day, prioritise our tasks, and give us the autonomy to do what matters.
→ Try to understand what motivates you and what your priorities are. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t make a plan to get there and you can’t decide your priorities. Drop things that don’t contribute to your goals, instead of trying to do anything and everything just because you’re supposed to. That will also help you to set boundaries.
→ Try to understand what triggers your anxiety. When you feel anxious, analyse the context: where are you? Since when do you feel stressed? What happened that could make you feel anxious? ... Is this anxiety triggered only in work situations? Or does it also happen in your personal life? Do you feel more anxious when you’re around people or when you’re alone? More than analysis skills, this step requires self knowledge. We don't always understand our own reactions, whether they are physical or emotional. Take a moment to explore how anxiety shows up in your body. When you make an effort to acknowledge the physical signs of anxiety, you can strive to detect it, feel it, and move through it. Perhaps you're afraid of failing or don't know where to start. Don’t ignore your anxiety, remember it’s an emotion and not a pathology itself. Everybody feels anxious sometimes. Feeling anxious is normal.
→ Try to understand your coping mechanisms. We always naturally try to adapt to difficult situations, whether it is conscious or not. Coping mechanisms that tend to work for some people include listening to music, breathing, grounding, drinking water, going outside, going for a run… Plan some time during your day to do something to relax your mind and your body, even if you think you’re fine.
→ Try to use different strategies and techniques such as the Eisenhower Method, that helps you organize your time depending on how urgent and important each task is, or the GTD (Getting Things Done), a time management system.
Your anxiety will increase if you put too much pressure on yourself or if you have a long list of task expectations. Break a big goal into smaller daily goals. And if you don't meet your goals for the week, that's okay. You can try again the following week. Consider both external and internal factors. Not everything is up to you. Would you feel guilty if you get sick and can't work? Planning can be challenging or, for some people, even scary.