25 Aug 2020

Cleaning house

I've spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact I have anxiety. My wife had brought it up a few times, but things really came to a head as the pandemic pandemonium hit the Upstate.

I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact I have anxiety. My wife had brought it up a few times, but things really came to a head as the pandemic pandemonium hit the Upstate. I was running at 200% and could never turn off. I had panic attacks on a daily basis and felt a deep disappointment in myself for being unable to live up to the unfair standards I set for myself. I finally made the choice to seek help from my doctor after a long talk with my wife where she finally told me how very different I had been for the past two to three years.

Treatment meant starting on anxiety medicine. I battled an internal stigma which had prevented this choice for a long time, but it has been the single best change I’ve made for myself in years. I went from a 12 to a 7 on a scale of 1-10 almost overnight. That change was all I needed to have hope things would get better. I was able to start piecing together how I could manage my anxiety while keeping an active career and family life amid this crisis. I’m now near what I would call my old self again, but with a much better understanding of managing myself.

One of my triggers is having too many open loops. I’ve learned to accept that there will always be more work than I have time for. But that doesn’t mean I need the clutter of those partially done tasks floating around everywhere. I’m doing my best to keep my immediate physical and virtual workspaces as uncluttered as possible using my version of the GTD method. I’ve got inboxes for my email, OneNote, and Feedly which I try to fully process at least once per day. I’ve been great at sticking to this.

I have not been as good about dealing with the pipes that accumulate in my Action Required email folders and task lists. I could be forgiven for missing some things considering the number of projects I’m involved in, but I feel horrible when my family or staff reminds me for the 5th time that I haven’t acted on something they need from me. My latest change has been to follow the “Delegate, Defer, Do” mantra. I force myself to think thru these questions:

  • Am I the only person that can do this task?
  • Am I the right person to do this task?
  • Can this task wait until later?
  • Does it need to be done at all? Easier said than done in the heat of the moment.

I’m also forcing myself to trust my team more. They are all smart, capable folks and if they need help will ask for it. The positives far outnumber the negatives. I have more open time to do things that only I can/should do. I spend more time facilitating or training others, thus permanently removing load from my shoulders. And my staff seems to feel more empowered to take ownership in what we do.

It’s been a long time since I was able to clean up anything but my inbox. But I’m making progress daily and the piles slowly get smaller. And, most importantly, I can walk away from it at the end of the day.