How do you manage anxiety and indecision when it comes to timeliness and scheduling?
July 13, 2012 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How do you manage anxiety and indecision when it comes to timeliness and scheduling?

I have a problem with making simple plans and getting things done. It's like I have a poor sense of time and knowing how long it takes to do things. This is coupled with indecisiveness -- possibly related to perfectionism? -- about what I should do/want to do, and when. It gives me a lot of anxiety. To the point when someone asks me "Hey, want to go on a quick trip out of town next weekend?" I get very anxious -- can I go? Do I want to go? -- and it makes everything seem so hard to do or looking forward to. And then I feel bad because rather then being excited about invites/opportunities to do fun stuff, I often react (mostly internally) like it's a hassle or a bad thing.

Another example: I decide to go to a yoga class on my day off. I spend an hour+ flipping back and forth between studios' websites and schedules, trying to figure out where to go, where I have passes (I am trying to lay off the groupons now), and figuring how long it will take for me to get there using a car, bus, train, etc. As you can guess, I have no existing exercise routine to speak of.

Even going to work in the morning (second guessing driving versus taking the train, etc.) is difficult.

Anyone else ever encounter this, and have tips or suggestions, even mindsets to adapt?

YIASAT (yes I am seeing a therapist) for depression and related matters as well.

Thank you.
posted by ArgyleMarionette to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I think what helped me (aside from medication, which you might talk to your therapist about and get a referral if he can't prescribe), was just the realization that nothing was getting done and something, some forward motion, was preferable to nothing. So short circuit your decision making process. When you find yourself going in circles just stop. And wherever you are in the cycle, just make that decision. Execute it, give it a chance, and if it isn't working revisit. The experience you'll have gained will make finding an alternative simpler.
posted by rocketpup at 12:54 PM on July 13, 2012

I get this so much, because I do the same thing. I will dither about the best way to accomplish something until I've run out of time/opportunity to do anything at all. This has cost me money, time, and far too many tears of frustration. For me, I think it's a combination of perfectionism, procrastination, and lack of self-confidence.

Something that has helped me some is repeating a few (cliche but helpful) mantras. Like:

- The perfect is the enemy of the good.

- Done is better than perfect.


- Half-assed is better than no-assed.

I know, it sounds dumb and woo-woo, but it has actually helped. I tell myself to just START, even if it's only for 5 minutes, even if it's going to be completely wrong, even if it's not the optimal solution. Usually, once I get started, I keep going and work things out. If I find myself dithering about how to start, I'll tell myself "try this way first, and if it doesn't work, you have back up ideas, but this is just fine as a start".
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 1:07 PM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also, realize that schedules are artificial constructs we put on ourselves and each other. They can be a convenience but they can also be a detriment. Many of them are more flexible than you think. Work on prioritization based on relative importance of the task to yourself and the power and attitude of the schedule-setter. Some two-bit client may insist something has to be done NOW, while an important client may be a bit more easy-going. While maintaining your mental and physical health, if you can satisfy the two-bit client without significantly inconveniencing the important client then do so. But if that's not possible, the two-bit client is less important than either your health or the interests of the important client. Prioritize accordingly.
posted by rocketpup at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2012

Ten years ago, this was me! Now I almost never have that problem. Here's how I 'fixed' it:

Put the unexpected (like out of town trips) aside and focus on the everyday. Create fixed routines and rules for your everyday life. Make broad decisions, not just day-to-day ones, and stick by them. In other words, every time you have to make a decision like this, write it down. Then, make up a default and rule that goes with that decision.

Example Question: How I am going to get to work?
Default: I will take the train because it is cheaper and I can read.
Rule: If I have plans after work that mean I'll miss the train, or am carrying something that cannot be taken on the train (e.g., birthday cake), I will drive instead.

For your defaults, the more they are out of your hands, the better. For example, the train leaves at a certain time, so that takes one more decision off your plate (when to leave the house).

Then, stick by the rule - no excuses! If you find that the rule is not working, reevaluate and rewrite it.

Structuring your everyday life like this will at least free up your mind to handle decision-making for unexpected events. Even for those, you can think of some general questions to ask. Like, for travel: can I afford it? Is anything on my calendar non-negotiable? What do I have to get done this weekend, and can I get that done even if I travel? What personally works for me is to say YES more often than no to these one-time opportunities, because I find the regret of not going always haunts me more than the inconvenience of going.
posted by beyond_pink at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

Okay, you need some strategies. The first thing you need is a time-table. This is a chart that lays out everything you need to get done and how long you have to do it. Example:

7:00--Alarm goes off and I get out of bed
7:00-7:03-toilet time
7:03-7:05-Brush Teeth

I mean, down to the minute. If you lose track of time, and old-fashioned timer can help.

Lots and lots of clocks, all over the house will help you keep track of where you are.

Decide a week ahead of time (on laundry day) what you're wearing each day. Put the outfit together with everything, shoes, underwear, everything you need. No more diddling in front of the closet. Just grab and go. (I do this for Husbunny because he is color-blind and the people in his office know me.)

Settle on one place to do your exercise, a gym, a piece of equipment in the office, a video, whatever it is. Put the time to exercise into your schedule. Done and done.

Check your clocks, if you're off of the schedule, you will need to eliminate stuff to get back on time. If you take too long with your hair, then no coffee and newspaper.

You don't have time to change your mind, so you don't.

As for perfect, that's silliness, nothing is perfect. I have a friend who used to spend hours thinking about what she wore and what day she wore it. It was a fucking algorithm. "I wore this on Thursday, so I can't wear it at all next week, but I can wear it the following week, but not on Thursday." It was madness! Finally, I just said, "Do you honestly think people are keeping mental track of your outfits and when you wear them? No one cares. Just don't go to work naked."

You need to get over yourself as far as perfect is concerned. What's the worst that can happen if you pick the wrong yoga studio? Just grab a groupon and go!

For decisions with no reprecussions, like "Do I want to go skiing this weekend?" Once you've determined that you have the time and money, flip a coin. If you honestly don't have an opinion, one way or another, it's as good a method as any. If you do have an opinion, the second that coin is in the air, you'll be rooting for one side or another. Then you realize, "Hey! I KNOW what I want."

Make a few mistakes, you'll see, it's not that big a deal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:11 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have this tendency, and one thing that helps is allowing myself a set amount of time for research, contemplating my choices, and executing the plan. Try scheduling a couple of hours to research and decide on a yoga class, and commit to enrolling in one at the end of that time period. Also realize that you can't really go wrong; after all, if you choose a yoga class that you don't end up liking you can just restart the process.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

(The above refers to an ongoing yoga class; obviously this isn't an efficient way to make daily choices.)
posted by Wordwoman at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2012

My oldest has a poor sense of time. What works for him is tying things to milestones instead of deadlines and developing a routine. If something is done routinely, you get kind of good at it and then the milestones tend to occur about the same time every time. (i.e. It takes roughly 45 minutes to do X even though you aren't trying to hit a particular time, and from there you can figure out if there is enough time for it today.) It becomes a viable substitute for having a good sense of time.

Your issue with indecisiveness sounds like maybe you don't have strong affect. People who are strongly emotional can make snap decisions because how they feel is a form of memory and a form of shorthand for many important details which impact their choice. People who are not so emotional require more research and mental work to make the same decision. Neither of these is right or wrong. But if you grew up around people with more affect, you might not have learned an effective process for yourself.

If that is true, pick a goal (like exercising), set a bar for how or when to decide, and do your research. After researching it thoroughly, make your choice (X gym every Saturday using this groupon deal). Then make it part of your routine and stick with it. Don't change it unless you have some significant occurrence which gives you reason to change it. Then do your research, make your decision and again make a routine of it. Repeat as necessary.
posted by Michele in California at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2012

Could you possibly remind yourself that there is no one "right way" to do any of these things, and that it is really a matter of *personal choice*? You're not trying to match up with the perfect answer. *Any* of the choices is right.

And this is sad and terrifying, because it means that there is no Right Way, no means of living your life in a wonderfully pristine way that all fits together and works beautifully.

We're just all in a mess, and finding one way or another to wade through the swamps, and, whichever way we wade, we will get there most of the time, but sometimes not, and we will get all mucky and dirty and we'll survive that too.

(until we don't)
posted by DMelanogaster at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always say this on these threads, but.... read/listen to "The Now Habit". It's very good. I'm pretty much in the same boat as you (I have to relisten to my CDs to get me back on track every so often).

In terms of perfection, I just try to think the following - whatever decision I make, there will have been a better one and a worse one, but not making a decision will get me nowhere.

Try to set goals with visible outcomes - have you joined Fitocracy? It's a little silly, but it's nice to "level-up" when you've exercised. I've found that even when I do something I've told myself to do, if there's not physical evidence of having done it, I'm not as happy (drawing a picture makes me happier than, say, reading a book, or grading papers....).

Set easy-to-choose boundaries for yourself. "If the weather is between X and X and I don't have any important meetings I will bike to work. If I am ready for work early, instead of reading in my dining room I will take the train and ready on the train. If I have an appointment after work in the city, I will take the car." Same thing with invites, "If I have a pile of work that needs to be done, I can't go, if I haven't seen these people in a while, I should go," etc.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

+1 for the timetable. For the first few tries, overestimate the amount of time for each block. You'll (1) get the satisfaction of beating your own expectations and (2) get better at estimating time in the future, which will help make you a more confident planner and do-er.
posted by morninj at 1:39 PM on July 13, 2012

I agree that it helps to grit your teeth and just commit to doing something one way, and then make it a routine. Once you've established some routines (it doesn't matter if they're perfect, just that they work), you won't have to worry so much about daily stuff, which should help you feel less stressed.

As for the threshold panic about commiting to something, I've found I can calm myself down in situations like that by asking myself what the absolute worst thing is that could possibly happen. I find it can help to look at the possible outcomes squarely, because otherwise I get what I think of as the Giant Cloud of Doom swirling around in my head. And because my brain likes hyperbole, when I start out listing things to myself, I usually start with things like: "Radioactive elephants could trample the waiter while we're trying to order. My teacher could have fangs and sing the Barney Song repetitively instead of teaching us anything useful. The train could be full of giant chameleons." But eventually my brain gets down to the real worst case scenarios, and they're usually not that bad: "He'll say no. The class will be boring. I'll have wasted 50 bucks. I'll feel awkward. I'll be sweaty because the train has no air conditioning." These are all survivable outcomes.
posted by colfax at 1:48 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, I can relate to this. I'm OK with sense of time, but the indecisiveness on little decisions (as opposed to major ones which I can make easily, sigh) and the yoga class example, are things I do all the time. The one thing I've found that helps is scheduling and making plans as far in advance as possible. (Within reason; I can't think 6 months ahead but 1 or 2 months, I can totally do.) Then you have that in your calendar, and even if you have to cancel, or change your mind, you are changing it about a specific thing, not a vast array of choices. If you decide you're going to go to one particular class every week, then skipping one day becomes about "skip" or "don't skip," and two choices are much easier than three or five. If you plan to take the train every day except, say, when you have a large bag or it's raining, it becomes much easier to assess which way you're getting to work. Also, it's harder (imho) to break a definite plan than to postpone a nebulous plan forever. This goes double for plans involving other people, or other circumstances that "trap" you into doing things. And it's OK to tell other people that you can't always plan for next weekend, but you'd like to take a trip next month. Then you have time to "prepare" for that happening.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:55 PM on July 13, 2012

I disagree with just making decision at a random point in the process and going with that. It's too impulsive and your results will vary. I did it that way for awhile, just out of pure frustration, until I got older and realized I could make great decisions if I slowed down. What I do now is just stop and remind myself to control any anxiety I'm feeling because it isn't the end of the world. If I can parse out solutions calmly at the time, I do that. If it's a bigger decision, a spontaneous thing, I say, "I'll get back to you by x time." And then I stop thinking about it until later, when I can write things down or think quietly.

I also like the default, and I do that, too. Thinking, "I will always do it this way, unless x,y,z happens," is good for things you do every single day. I break mine a lot, but it is a comfort that you know the "right" way to do things.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:21 PM on July 13, 2012

Like, for instance, a way I would parse out answers now to something like your yoga question would go like this, "Okay, I want to go to yoga class this morning. I have the choice of three classes. Class 1 is nearest my house. Class 2 has this form of yoga I might like to try. I have a pass for class 3. What's more important to me right now? Well, I've never really done yoga, so I might not want to jump into class 2 right now. I'm not sure what kind of yoga it really is because I have no experience. I don't need to use my pass right now because I have money and it doesn't expire until whenever. So I'll go to Class 1 because it's the easiest to get to and it will be the easiest place to get started, since I don't really have that much of a preference right now." Basically, think of all your options and then eliminate or include based on facts or your preference.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2012

Constructive Living really opened my eyes--their big phrase is The Universe Rewards Action.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:52 PM on July 13, 2012

I'm probably the last person who should answer this because it's me to a T, but for the moment, it has felt like a step forward to just articulate it to people: "it's hard for me to plan ahead right now, so I won't be able to decide until the last minute if I want to go or not." Obviously not everyone can accommodate that, and I make excretions for things like friend's birthdays or other big, important plans. But generally I try to do this in a non-self-judgmental way.

On the yoga thing, I try to simplify the variables as quickly as possible by semi-randomly picking limiting factors: "I want to walk there after work." Then, if my ideal situation doesn't pan out, I'll relax one of the fixed assumptions ("ok, what if I took the bus?").
posted by salvia at 9:29 PM on July 13, 2012

Never Be Late Again is really good. It did not "cure" my chronic lateness, but I think it could have if I'd been better about doing the activities and stuff. I still feel like I got a lot out of it (including the knowledge that Bill Clinton is a fellow "chronic latenik," which has been a source of comfort to me on many occasions). :D

I would also check out some books on mindfulness as a means for dealing with your anxiety, if you haven't done that already. I like Pema Chodron, but there are so many out there.
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:37 AM on July 14, 2012

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