I recently re-read a book I picked up a few years ago by Clare Harris called Conquer Stress, Achieve Success, and it describes something I advocate highly: doing a personal stress audit.
First: Find a quiet space where you’re comfortable and won’t be disturbed. You may even want to do a relaxation technique or meditate for a few minutes to release any tensions from the outside world at that moment. Then, with pen and a notepad, make a list of all the most important events that occurred in the last two years.
Next: Create a list or pie chart of the different areas of your life. In GTD, we call these Areas of Focus and Areas of Responsibility combined.
Now, you can go category by category and write down anything that makes you feel stressed, tense or anxious, sad, angry, limited or judged. The author notes you should make sure not to self-judge or self-censor while doing this part of the exercise. Continue writing down items with their categories until you’ve exhausted ideas.
Then, lay out the categorized lists, mindmaps or however you created them, and look for commonalities, patterns and relationships among the categories’ items. From here you should be able to do two things: 1) note which items need change, and 2) asterisk which items need change as soon as possible!
Finally, the part most people leave out when doing any kind of assessment: create a strategy for change! Using SMART goals (see episode 19), create steps for achieving a lower-stress lifestyle. Make sure to include key players in your life: your boss, your spouse, family, friends, coworkers and children.
You know you’ve reached a point of success when you can start checking off items from your SMART goals list for reducing stress.