The stress of not getting things done

Welcome to part three of The Art of Taking Action series.

In part one I wrote about the central ideas in the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech, and in part two we explored musician Shinichi Suzuki’s thoughts on procrastination.

In another excellent essay in the book, Trudy Boyle shares her research on stress, and is keen to point out that not all stress is bad for you – in fact, it’s a normal part of life to some extent, as without some stress we probably wouldn’t achieve anything at all.

There are definitely some stresses which we want to avoid though. Stress caused by procrastination can be particularly harmful to our mental and physical health.

Boyle describes something that feels quite familiar to me – Any fellow freelancers/creative professionals will probably also relate!

“My number one stress creator is not completing a task I have set for myself or following through promptly. The stress is compounded when I take on more than I can deliver in the allotted time. And my final penchant, which makes up what I call my “stress triangle, is to ignore the whole lot until the last sixty seconds!”

But does this matter, as long as we get the work done ‘just in time’? Maybe some of us are just wired to do things at the last minute.

Well, Boyle warns that if we’re behind on a deadline, a mad rush to the finish line can lead to a dangerous case of ‘tunnel vision’ that can create more harm than good.

This is because we tend to become careless in all other areas of our lives and our relations with others are likely to become strained as a result. Certainly, as someone who tries to be mindful, I know that if I end up in a mad last minute rush, my good habits in other areas of my life are likely to slip.

Boyle recommends we become as aware as we can of our impact on others:

“Other people are depending on us, whether we want them to or not. We are all depending on each other, as we weave our lives, families and communities together. So when we do not carry our weight, the fabric gets a buckle in it.”

Awareness of our effect on others can help us to make better decisions at the outset and avoid taking on tasks we won’t be able to manage.

It is, she suggests, better to say no in the first place than take something on and fail to finish it, which requires:

“Good, sound, realistic judgement, which can be hard to come by.”

In my case, good judgement can be very hard to come by when I’m stressed about something, so I’m learning to run important decisions past several people I trust which helps me see things more clearly.

Boyle also recommends the Naikan reflection technique as a way of understanding our impact on others and therefore getting a more realistic picture of what actions we need to take. You can find out more about Naikan reflection in this helpful article at the ToDo Institute: How to Practice Naikan Reflection.

[color-box]Art-of-Taking-Action-CoverI hope you enjoyed this post which was inspired by The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech.

You might want to read the other posts in this series:

  1. The Art of Taking Action
  2. The Truth About Putting Things Off Until Tomorrow

Look out for the next article in the series later this week, and Email subscribers will receive a digest at the weekend.


2 replies on “The stress of not getting things done”

really interesting article- I’m very intrigued by the Naikan reflection practise. Will give that a go, I think it could be quite eye-opening.


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