Anxiety from empty list


#1

Does anyone ever get nervous after clearing their list for the day? Sometimes, when it’s early and my Today list is clear or maybe has something on it that can only be done at night, I get antsy during the down time.

I don’t want to pick something else from the pool of options to do. I want to be able to turn it off, if that makes sense. Can anyone relate? How do you handle it? I feel like there could be a “lose string” somewhere, but not sure. Thanks!


#2

Good question!

This might be a “grass is greener” scenario. I’d bet that striking the perfect balance is very difficult. You’ll either put too much on your plate and feel anxious because you’ve failed to get something done, or you’ll have a shorter list and feel like there’s something missing when you complete the last item.

One solution might be to try to anchor your judgment about whether the day is finished (or whether you’ve done enough) in something other than list-completion. That heuristic might be doomed in a couple of ways. First, it’s relative (e.g., “was this day better than yesterday? could I do better tomorrow?” This is a lot of pressure!). Second, it’s subjective (are all tasks equal in effort? In impact?).

You could externalize and objectify your judgment-system a little bit by using something like the Printable CEO. If you have a global idea of what kinds of work matter the most—and of the differences in difficulty they feature—you can compare progress against that. Without such a perspective you’re liable to judge yourself based on the whims and contexts of the moment, which isn’t necessarily fair.

I also strive for big-picture worldviews. No tasks are equal, and progress isn’t linear. It’s hard to tell what matters most in short-term retrospectives. A personal vision and identity, mid-term goals, and trying to trust my intuition (even when it makes me procrastinate!) have gone far to help me defeat my own self-doubt demons.