In Stress Management, Support by Alexandra Mitchell


As an aspiring novelist I read a lot about the craft of writing, writer’s block and more. One of my favorite books, Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” has given me one of the greatest takeaways that I use daily.

When Lamott’s brother was 9 or 10, he was struggling to write a book report on, you guessed it, birds. His father, watching him stress and strain asked, “What’s wrong?” (I’m paraphrasing here).

     “Dad, there are so many birds — bluebirds, crows, ducks, sparrows,
     parakeets, cardinals, chickens — where do I start?!?”

     “Just take it bird by bird,” he told him.

B R I L L I A N T !!

Four Simple Steps to Ease and Action
We’re consuming a lot more information these days, both for our personal lives as well as for our businesses.  All of that extra information being processed means our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and emotions are working double and triple duty. So what should we do when there are so many different situations we have to now take onto our shoulders and organize, new plans to make, and a range of “firsts” to experience? Just take it one thing at a time. Don’t suffer in overwhelm and anxiety about what’s not getting done or what to do next. Instead, do these four simple steps:

  • Step 1:Set aside time and create a dedicated space where you can sit quietly for 30 minutes.
  • Step 2: Write down everything that’s on your “Gotta do” list. Don’t organize yet, just get it on the paper. Don’t stop writing until it’s all out of your head.
  • Step 3: Create columns that separate business from family/home. Try not to make a hierarchy or keep reorganizing the items in order of importance; that’s the first sign of procrastination.
  • Step 4: Do one thing (it doesn’t have to be the first item on the list). Cross it off when it’s done. Then do another. And another. One at a time.

Getting tasks out of your head and onto paper creates a visual and organized “To Do” list.  You’ll move from feeling overwhelmed into knowing what you need to do in the next minute, hour and day.  It doesn’t matter what the task is — maybe it’s just making your bed or washing your breakfast dishes right after you’ve eaten —  small achievements create big shifts within.

Remember: Just take it bird by bird.