Worry, Worry, Go Away, Don’t Come Back Another Day

Have you ever thought about how much more productive you become when you don’t think? You’re probably re-reading this question and asking, “Huh?” Let me clarify. When we avoid thinking about what it is that we should be thinking about, we tend to worry because we aren’t getting done the thing that we’re avoiding. So if you stop thinking about the things that you’re not doing, there is a greater likelihood that you are thinking only about the task at hand, making you more productive.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the eight sins that impact our efficiency – defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transport, inventory, motion, and extra processing (“DOWNTIME”). Add to this list Sin #9 – worry. Worry is a waste that can affect your productivity dramatically.

When you worry about things, you are not in the present. When you’re not in the present, you’re not at your productive best. In addition, worrying can cause anxiety which can turn into stress. Now think about how worry is impacting not only your productivity, but your health, as well.

Worry is a negative way of thinking. It drains you of your energy, time, and capability. To be more productive and to help you stop worrying about the things you aren’t doing, prioritize, use lists, and schedule your work. Do this daily, weekly, and monthly. The more you organize your thoughts in writing, the less chance of worry seeping into your thinking.

To help you stop worrying, here are five things you may wish to try:

  1. If you’re a self-proclaimed worrier, schedule your “worry time” for the same time every day. For instance, mid-day for 30 minutes. During this time, write down all the things that you’re worried about. The power of this exercise is that it allows you to “dump” your worries to where you can see them rather than having them clog your thinking time. When you’ve reviewed and updated your list, you can stop worrying because you’ll have a chance to review the list again tomorrow. This allows some predictability for the worrier.
  2. Evaluate your worry list every day and ask: What on the list is solvable? What on the list is an imaginary problem? By imaginary, I mean the problem is not based in fact; it is based on an unknown prediction of some future event. If the problem is solvable, move it to your list of priority items and schedule time to work on the problem. If the problem is imaginary, strike it off your list. If you can’t strike it, keep returning to it until you convince yourself that the problem is imaginary and not solvable. Therefore, it needs to go!
  3. Accept uncertainty. This is probably very difficult for someone who worries, but it is a reality of life. Worrying about an unpredictable future is counterproductive, but planning for it is worth your time and effort. Plan for your future by creating a monthly or annual plan. Include all the uncertainties that you’re worried about and address how you will solve each one. Then work your plan.
  4. Use mindfulness to focus on the present. Be aware of your thoughts. When worry seeps in, turn to your list of priorities to gain perspective. Once there, you are able to turn off worry and focus on the task that you should be doing. This will make you more productive.
  5. Use your old worry lists as reminders of accomplishment. The worries that you’re able to strike off your list (that you created in point 1 above) are indications of progress. If they’re off your list, that means you are managing to turn destructive thoughts (worries) into constructive problem solving.

In addition to the above tips, try talking out your worry with a friend or colleague. Sometimes just talking about a problem provides much needed clarity that can lead to resolution.

Whatever you do, the trick is to funnel your worry to a solution and go from destructive worrying to constructive problem solving.