Work-Life Sanity Blog


29 May 2013

Genius Moments

Have you ever witnessed a genius moment?  It’s a moment when you experience someone (other than yourself) taking an action that is so inspired and totally RIGHT for this very situation and moment, that it takes your breath away.  Genius can come from anywhere and anybody.  We all have it sometimes.  And I believe we all see it from time to time.

I witnessed a genius moment once in the office of a middle school principal. My daughter was a student in that school.  Though she was an excellent student and a “nice girl” (meaning she was not a troublemaker), she was often late to school.  In fact, she had racked up so many “tardies” that she and her parents were summoned to the principal’s office to address this problem.

He started off our meeting by framing the issue and summarizing Sarah’s morning arrival statistics.  He asked Sarah if she had any ideas how to resolve this.  She didn’t.  He looked once again at her record, which included her address, and the genius moment was born.

He said, “Say, I see you live right down at the end of Irving Street, don’t you?  Well, wouldn’t you know it, on my way into school every day, I stop at the Dunkin Donuts at the other end of your street.  I could come and pick you up and take you to school every morning!  That would certainly get you to school on time.  How about if I did that?”  

I don’t know if you remember your own middle school experience, or if you know a middle school-aged child, but the last thing any middle school child needs is to be driven to school by the principal.  It’s embarrassing enough to have parents you are seen with from time to time.  But to arrive daily with the principal?  Utter demolition of whatever tenuous social standing you might have in the middle school jungle.  An unrecoverable embarrassment.

After a moment of silence, Sarah said she did not think that would be necessary and she did not think there would be a problem going forward.   And by and large there wasn’t. 

As her parents, we had tried everything we could think of, ranging from being understanding and trying to find out what the underlying problem was, to structural approaches such as giving her an earlier bedtime and having her set out her clothes and pack her backpack the night before, to setting up consequences.  But we hadn’t come up with consequences dire enough to matter to her.         

Mr. Burns just nailed it. 

Where have you witnessed a genius moment? Or an inspired action? I invite you to share it in a comment. 

If you are a parent actively dealing with a chronic challenge of any sort with your child, know that you are not alone.  Make sure you have the support you need, whether the support of other parents, of a professional, or whatever else might be useful to you and your child.  Because an ongoing challenge with a child can be very depleting for the parent, it can be extremely helpful to supplement your usual ways of keeping your own batteries charged. Get help if you need it!  

20 May 2013

Stress Management 101: Focus on Solutions

I met with a prospective client recently for an initial consultation.  She wanted help addressing her uneven professional performance: she used to do A+ work all the time, now she finds herself doing “so-so” work some of the time for no apparent reason.  She wants to go back to A+ all the time but sheer will, intention, and “positive thinking” aren’t making it happen, and it’s stressing her out. 

I asked her several questions, including, “What else is going on for you on the so-so days?”  That turned out to be the key to what needed to happen next.  She hadn’t ever really looked at that.  She decided to hire me as her coach, and her first assignment was to notice what else is going on for her on the so-so days.

[Shameless plug: a coach can ask questions that approach the problem from a wholly different perspective from the individual’s, and THAT can get things moving again.  To paraphrase a quote from Albert Einstein: We can’t solve problems using the same mindset from which the problems arose.]

The “what else” that might be going on for you in your off days can be on any level, and if you experience a similar unevenness in your work, looking at the list below might be useful to you as well.  Here are some micro-questions for looking at “what else.”  If you have other good questions to add, please leave them as a comment.

  1. What’s the content you are working when doing so-so work, and is it different from the content you’re addressing at more effective times? 
  2. What’s the process you’re engaged in, and is it different from your process on better days (or hours)?  For example, are you doing a lot of writing today, or is it a day of interacting with other people?  Is it a day with 4,672 interruptions?
  3. Who are you interacting with today?
  4. What are you wearing?  I once worked with a woman who (it turned out) had a bad day every time she wore a certain pair of shoes. She hated the shoes because she thought they made her look matronly and sexless, so she felt bad about herself the whole day. But she’d paid a lot of money for them and made herself wear them.  [When she saw how much it was costing her (in the quality of her day and her output) to wear them, she got rid of them replaced them with a new pair that she loved. Problem solved.  I kid you not.  Alas, it’s not always this simple.]
  5. A total aside: my father was a primary care physician and ace diagnostician.  Once, he cured a patient’s daily headaches by having him get all new underwear that was looser.
  6. What took place prior to your noticing your meh performance — consider everything, including what you were thinking about. Did you have a conversation earlier in the day with your spouse (or child, nanny, colleague, boss, client, doctor’s office, etc)  that’s distracting you? Are you beating yourself up for not having finished the annual report?  Are you comparing yourself with a colleague or with Marissa Meyer or Naomi Watts and coming up short? Are you worried about an upcoming interview?  Are you worrying about something else?

Having a next step to take toward solving a nagging problem can be a huge relief.  My new client was so happy to have an assignment that would move things forward, knowing we would talk about her observations in next week’s coaching call. I don’t know what she’ll observe in the coming week, but we’ll look at it together and I’m confident something useful and actionable will come out of it. 

Effective people don’t stay stuck.  For more on this, see another recent post

Feel free to add to this topic with a comment here.

7 May 2013

Hawk Eats Sparrow: Doing Our Work

My 2nd floor office window looks out into the branches of 3-storey evergreen trees. When I’m not meeting in-person with a client, I face out that window, toward the Charles River.  

One day in March, a red-tailed hawk landed on a branch right in front of me.  He had a headless sparrow in his right claw.  There was a flurry of activity as he de-feathered the already-dead sparrow.  Then he ate the small bird in bite-size morsels.  It was like a National Geographic special right outside my window.  When he finished, he wiped his beak and cheeks several times on a clean part of the branch — as if he were sharpening a knife on a sharpening stone.  It was not until that moment that I first thought to myself, “Photo!”  and reached for my iPhone which was right next to me the whole time.  But as I slowly lifted it to my eye, Mr. Hawk took off. 

Some days later, he (or his relative) was on another branch when I sat down to work.  This time I got the photo. 









 A few days later, I saw a squirrel in the same tree doing something I’d never seen a squirrel do.  He  very animatedly pulled off pieces of bark in long strips, about 2 and 3 feet long, a bunch of them.  I thought he was going to carry them off to build a nest — wouldn’t this be nest-building time in Squirrelville?  But no.  He turned them over so the inner surface was facing him and proceeded to very quickly work his mouth down the length of the strip as if he were eating something delicious and fast moving. (Sap?  Insects?)

Then he let the strips fall.  He left some of the strips just hanging without ever processing them.  Here’s a photo of one of the stripped branches.  If you look carefully you can see a couple of the strips still hanging. The stripped area is reddish; the gray still has its bark intact. And then a photo of the perpetrator.




Because these “National Geographic specials” were such unusual events outside my humble window on an ordinary Tuesday morning, my meaning-seeking mind went to work. 

Each of these animals was unabashedly doing their work  in ways they are wired to do.  Each was earning his living, oblivious to me on the other side of the window. They simply followed their instincts.  The squirrel didn’t eat the sparrow. The hawk didn’t strip the bark.  I concluded this was an unpaid advertisement for unabashedly following one’s own path.

Feel free to leave a comment. 

1 May 2013

Professional Development 101: Managing Regret

My client Lyn needs to get more focused.  She doesn’t have ADD, but like many of us, she gets distracted easily.  It’s not a problem at work: when she’s there, she does the work that’s in front of her, which is fully engaging, and she does it well.  Outside of work, until now, her distractibility hasn’t been an issue. 

But circumstances have changed, and suddenly she has a great deal to accomplish outside of work in a short amount of time.  For example, she’s applying for an advanced credential with a rapidly approaching deadline.  She’s studying for the exam and writing up the extensive documentation of the last 20 years of her professional experience.  Getting this work done requires strong time management and mental focus.  There’s no time for distractions. 

 Lyn is not only learning the material for the exam.  She’s also learning how to be more disciplined with her time and attention.  And there’s more.  As she struggles to manage her focus, one of her distractions is regret that she didn’t learn these skills earlier in her life.  So she’s also learning how to effectively handle the regret.  

 How do you deal with regret?  I think for most people, the innate response to regret is to immerse oneself in the bad feeling of it, and then to move into the even worse-feeling space of self-blame.  In Lyn’s case, whose fault was it she never mastered these skills before?  Well, hers of course.  And so forth. 

But you can transform regret into a powerful catalyst for change.  Once you notice that your mind has wandered into self-blame, YOU HAVE A CHOICE.  You can move further into the space of self- blame – which is unpleasant but familiar (and which most of us are really good at) – or you can practice the new behavior, which in Lyn’s  case is bringing the mind back to the difficult task at hand and getting back to work.  

In other words, take all that regret-energy and re-focus it to support you in doing the new behavior NOW.  The new behavior is hard for you, which is why you haven’t done it until now, so have compassion and understanding for the “you” who avoided it.  But do the new behavior now so 10 years from now you won’t regret that you didn’t do it now. 

Take the small, humble step that is right in front of you on this ordinary Tuesday morning.  This is how deliberate, intentional change happens.

 For Lyn, the new behavior is staying focused, which involves noticing when her mind wanders off, and simply and immediately bringing it back to the task. I’m happy to report she’s doing really well.  What’s the new behavior you’re learning?  Here are some examples from recent clients and myself: 

  • Learning where to do a B+ job (instead of an A+ job)
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Prioritizing more ruthlessly
  • Choosing healthier lunches
  • Coaching rather than directing your team
  • Keeping your manager updated without making her concerned

 How do your transform regret or self-blame into positive change?  What tactics work for you?  Please share your experience in a comment. 

26 April 2013

Enhance Your Creative Process: 5 Free Online Tools

A while back, I wrote a post about enhancing the creative process.  There is so much  more to say on the topic.  For example, there are some useful, free online free tools out there to not only enhance your creativity, but assist you at various steps along the way.

To give you an idea, I’ve gathered a list of five free online tools for the creative process.  You may already use some of them or a competitor, but take a look at these if you’re not already familiar with them.  They may be useful to you.

  1. Mind Tools The site is known for helping people — from struggling students to top scientists — exercise and improve their mind.  With a special section just for creativity, they offer a ton of options including Provocation, Morphological Analysis, and a Re-framing Matrix.  They also have lower key creativity tools for those who would need to schedule extra time to work the advanced ones.  There are also loads of other related tools for those who enjoy an intellectual challenge.
  2. Creativity Toolbox  A lite version of the above, here you can utilize some creativity tools that are both easy to find and use and can help you kick start your creative mojo.  There are options in idea generation, instant stimulation, and even the problem-solving process. This free site can help you do a range of things, from coming up with a website name to telling you how a famous person would solve your problem.
  3. The Accidental Creative If you’d rather listen to ideas than read them, this is the website for you because it includes many excellent podcasts.  The Accidental Creative has many tools for creativity, but the podcast section alone is worth a visit.  Todd Henry and company’s podcasts address topics like inverting the creative process, lying, and other intriguing angles.  And, should you get tired of listening, they also have good articles.
  4. Creative Something Get some creative inspiration from one of the top bloggers on the subject, Tanner Christensen.  Every day he offers an interesting and sometimes quirky idea on creativity, which can include a useful iPhone app, suggestion, or new way of approaching old problems.  You can search through the archives for something that fits your dilemma or check out the most popular entries.
  5. The Creative Mind Ever wonder about the psychology of creativity?  So does Douglas Eby, an expert in counseling psychology and blogger for Psych Central.  He has interviewed many artists, psychologists, and others about creative expression and features the science behind creativity, along with some useful tips in this online column.

The key factor in enhancing creativity is to do what works for you.  There are many things a person can do can do to enhance creativity, but not all of them will be a good fit for you at the time that you need it.  If a mind exercise is taking up too much time, read about a possible solution to the specific problem.  If reading doesn’t help, listen to a podcast on something related.  If none of the above five websites are helping, maybe it’s time to track a colleague down for some brainstorming.

You probably already know this, but it bears repeating: 95% of the time, an awful first draft of anything is still better than nothing, because at least you have something to improve on. Sometimes the unsuccessful terrible first shot at a solution provides the impetus for a creative breakthrough.  However, if you are certain beyond a doubt that your first draft will make matters worse for you, it might be time to return to the creative process itself.  Check out some of these sites and try some of the tools they offer.  They could make a difference for you.

Full disclosure: if you’re a card-carrying procrastinator, these sites may be a danger zone for you — don’t let yourself disappear into them!

What are the resources, tools, and strategies that work for you?  What are your creative challenges? Please share your thoughts in a comment.

19 March 2013

Keep Your Self-Confidence Intact During a Job Search

The key to job hunting in the current environment is to view it as an endurance event which requires that you stay nourished and hydrated for the long haul.  One of the key ways for you to stay nourished and hydrated is to pay attention to and take very good care of your self-confidence.  The resume process, which forces you to revisit the professional work you’ve done and allows you to take more detailed and robust ownership of all of it, should help a lot.   

I recommend spending time with a voice recorder, a trusted friend, or a coach or career counselor where one job at a time, you explain ALL the ways you made a difference, all that you brought to the table and DID in the jobs you’ve had, how it made a difference for the clients you’ve served,the companies where you worked, and so forth. A coach or career counselor or perhaps a trusted friend will prompt you for details, and ask questions that will help you go deeper.  It’s extremely confidence-building and useful to have that fuller sense of yourself and your effectiveness with you every day as you do the humble endurance work of looking for work, which provides almost no validation, encouragement, or acknowledgement of your value.  

If you’re unemployed and looking for a job, it can be extremely helpful to find SOME way to be engaged in the work you want to do, on a part-time or short-term basis, whether it’s pro-bono or otherwise.  Why?  It will remind you, every time you do it, that you are good at it, HOW you are good at it, that you work well with others, that you are effective, personable, reliable, collegial, that you communicate well and really have some affinity for the work.  It might remind you that you have a good sense of humor, that people like you, that you have high standards, and that you can work quickly. 

All of this validation happens in real time as you do the work, and you absorb it, which keeps your self-confidence healthy. It’s hard to sustain self-confidence in a vacuum.   It might look like you don’t have time to be  job-hunting AND doing some kind of volunteer work, but for many people the benefits that come from the volunteer (or project) work actually give them energy and actually expand their bandwidth.    

Have you been able to sustain your self-confidence during a job search or other potentially draining process?  What worked (or is working) for you?  Please share your thoughts, strategies, and tools in a comment. 

12 March 2013

Getting Unstuck From “The Problem”

If you find yourself so attached to your “problem” that you resist moving into solutions, you actually have two problems.

Here’s how that plays out.

  1. Someone says, “My family didn’t really support me in finding the right career for myself.”  And while saying that, stays stuck in the “wrong career” for 20 years.
  2. Another person says, “When I was in law school, no one advised us candidly about which kinds of law practice were more conducive to having a balanced family life.  I became a litigator and there’s no balance possible.”  And stays stuck as an unhappy, unbalanced litigator, unmarried and with no children even though she still wants both. 
  3. Here’s another: “My problem is that I’m just not the kind of person who’s comfortable networking or promoting my business.  It feels too sales-y and artificial.”  And stays stuck with a lackluster business even though he’s a very talented consultant. 
  4. Or how about this one:  “I’m easily distracted.  There’s nothing I can do about it — it’s just the way I am.  So I can never get on top of my bills and papers.  I’m always having to pay late fees.”

You might be asking, so what’s the alternative?  The alternative is to actively choose not to be a passive victim of the “problem,”  and to find solutions.  Here’s how that looks:

  1. My family didn’t know how to help me choose a good career given who I am.  But there are resources out there that can help me figure that out now.  I still have a lot of working years left, so I might as well figure this out already so that my NEXT bunch of working years can be more satisfying.  I know people who have figured out how to go back to school; if that’s what I have to do, I’ll figure it out too.
  2. Being a litigator isn’t working for me.  I need to figure out how to segway into another kind of law, even though it’s not commonly done.  I sure wish I knew then what I know now, but at least I know it now and can make some changes, whatever it takes.  It’s too important to me to not do this.
  3. I’m not a natural networker or self-promoter, but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my working life just barely getting by.  So, I either need to get over myself and learn how to do it, regardless of how uncomfortable it is (after all, I learned how to roller blade and that was totally out of comfort zone for me), or I have to find a situation where someone else does the marketing and I just get to do the work.   But probably to find that I’ll have to go out there and talk to people.  So either way. . . I have to do this.  I owe it to myself.
  4. I’m easily distracted.  Over the years I’ve found some tactics that make a difference for me.  At this point I have a few things in my back pocket I can deploy when I need to.  I guess I could develop some more of those, and maybe get some help.  I really, really, really need to straighten out my paperwork even though it makes me very anxious.  The truth is it also makes me anxious not to have it straightened out.

Bottom line: you don’t have to stay stuck!

Where have you been successful in getting unstuck from a problem that held you back for a while?  Please share your experience or what you learned in a comment.


© 2013, Sharon Teitelbaum.  All rights reserved.

27 February 2013

Boundary-Setting for Good Girls

Revised 4/17/13.

Setting or strengthening boundaries is very difficult for a lot of people. In my experience, it’s most difficult for people who grew up as “good girls” in a context where goodness (and even worthiness itself!) was about helping others

This context is established at home, in school, at church and synagogue, and in activities.  For example, the Girl Scout promise includes the pledge “to help people at all times” (emphasis mine).  An impressionable girl might take this quite literally.

As good girls become adult women, this training can translate into a sense of obligation to say YES to every request that comes in.  It can also mean that when they see an opportunity to help someone, they don’t even see it as a choice — they just jump in.  I had a client whose neighbor mentioned she was having difficulty deciding among three bids for renovating a bathroom.  My client immediately jumped in and spent the evening at the neighbor’s house helping her decipher the proposals.  My client didn’t have the time to spare and suffered as a result.

This automatic focus on helping others is not a recipe for a good life. It’s also not a recipe for a life of selfless service, because it’s not sustainable.  Living by a policy of always saying yes and always jumping in to help leads directly to burnout. 

What’s missing is the counterbalance: the responsible and appropriately self-reflective voice that asks, “What can I afford to do in this situation, if anything? What do I want to do?”

Whether or not you were ever a good girl or a good boy, you may feel guilty saying no to requests for your time, money, focus, or any other resource. But feeling guilty doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong. It often means you’re doing something out of your comfort zone, or something new.

Saying YES to every request or always jumping in to help doesn’t lead to your doing your best work, however you define it.  Whatever you choose to DO with your life, you can’t also DO everything else. That’s what setting boundaries is all about.

When you say “no” to collaborating on yet another project, or when you resist the temptation to put on your superwoman cape and dash in to help someone, you’re not  saying you don’t value those people or initiatives. Rather, you’re saying you currently have other priorities and you are fully deployed with those priorities. That boundary allows you to remain in service to your chosen priorities. Having weak boundaries is functionally equivalent to having no priorities. Anything and anyone can come in and get some of your time (or focus, money, staff, etc).

Many people who are disappointed with their results and accomplishments (or lack thereof) are actually suffering from weak boundaries. They don’t accomplish what they want because they don’t protect their ability to focus intensely on creating those results and accomplishments.  They were being “good” and “nice” and helping other people instead. But think about it — your priorities and commitments ALSO help other people, don’t they?

Making your best positive contribution in the world requires that you protect your ability to stay focused on what you are doing. Strong boundaries allow you to bring your best energy to those commitments, whatever they are.

You may be managing a department, doing oncology research, growing your own vegetables, running a university, doing marketing consulting, working in your town’s recycling center, or any of a million other kinds of valuable, productive work. Whatever short list of commitments are closest to your heart right now, you can’t give them your best shot if you aren’t also prepared to resist the infinite number of other “opportunities” competing for your time and attention.

Becoming skilled at this requires that you make your peace with missed opportunities. You can’t do everything right now. I’m sorry, but that’s just the truth. But with strong boundaries, you can do some things very, very effectively. And when you want, you can choose your next set of priorities.   For more on this topic, check out one of my blog posts from earlier this year.

What’s your best boundary-setting strategy?  Please share your experience in a comment below.

Short term coaching for strengthening boundaries is one of my specialties.  Contact me if you’re interested in exploring this.


8 January 2013

Managing the Stress of Feeling Overwhelmed

I spent 9 days out of the office during the Christmas-thru-New-Years period.  Although I wrote a blog post and answered a few coaching-related emails during that time, I was 99% “out” on family time.  And it was delightful.

When I got back to work that first week of January, there was some catching up to do, including some end-of-year processes that I hadn’t gotten to before I left because my daughter’s new baby arrived a week early.  The work of closing out 2012 actually would have been enough to keep me plenty busy upon return.  But there was much, much more. 

There’s a ton of deferred maintenance that my coaching business needs: renovations to my website, expansion in my use of social media, upgrades in other infrastructure, to name a few.  And each of these has about a gazillion sub-tasks, or at least that’s how it looked when I started making lists of what was needed. I felt overwhelmed. I started doing triage and felt my stress level rise.

The more anxious I felt, the more scattered and speedy I became.  You may be familiar with this cycle.  Not a pretty sight, no fun, and not much work actually gets done — all that hyperventilating creates a lot of distraction. After a day or two of frantic rushing from one task to the next, it’s not just “I have this huge mountain to climb” but also “and I’ll never get there at this rate!” 

And then I recognized what was going on. I’ve only been through this cycle about ten thousand times before, so at this point I’m able to read the signs before too much damage is done. The real culprit is not the mountain, but the un-managed stress. The antidote is to calm that freaking-out voice in my head (the cortisol-crazed voice-over from my fight-or-flight response). And to bring back the more grounded voice that usually narrates my daily life.

I have a bag of tricks I collect for just such a need, so I pulled it out and started deploying its contents. The first day I listened to 20 minutes of Pema Chodron’s Smile at Fear, and the next day another 20 minutes. That helped me feel more “unconditionally friendly” toward myself, calmer, and more neutral (less blaming) about what was going on.   The third day I went to yoga, where I gratefully absorbed the teaching of my yoga instructor, Diana Cullum-Dugan, who said (to paraphrase), “Let go of blaming yourself and others. Unhook from the story of your history.”  That allowed me to be much more present and expansive.  And then today I listened to about 15 minutes of Tara Brach, who helped me let go of the energy of striving, which enabled me to simply do the work in front of me without the edge.  Tomorrow I’ll watch a Brene Brown video. 

These teachers calm my racing head and engage a whole other part of me.  In the great open space this creates, I have plenty of time to do everything I want and need to do.  Without the insanity. 

What’s the best tool in your bag of tricks?  When do you use it?  Leave a comment.

21 December 2012

Stress Management: Have That Difficult Conversation with Your Boss

Imagine this. You’re utterly flat out at work, painfully aware of how close you’ve come lately to dropping balls (or maybe you’ve dropped a few). You’re stressed from what seems like working all the time, but you don’t know any other way to address all that’s on your plate. Then you get another big assignment that puts you over the edge: now this really is impossible, even for you (with your hard core work ethic and ability to muscle through whatever-it-takes). Sound plausible? Familiar?

Here’s what productivity guru David Allen writes about this in a recent newsletter:

The good news about this overwhelm is that it’s forcing people to make executive decisions that they never felt like they had to make before. “I need to do everything that comes my way.” No, you can’t anymore, sorry. You are going to have to do triage. That means you are going to have to have a conversation with your boss. You are going to have to show up with a list of everything he or she has given you and have a conversation. “Gee, thanks for these new things, can we talk? Because I am not going to be able to do them all.” It’s forcing those kinds of conversations.     Read more. . . .        

For years I’ve helped clients have conversations like these with their bosses (and with their own direct reports when they initiate it). Most find it helpful to talk through how to position the conversation, how to language what they need to say, and how to sustain a constructive dialog without complicating it by getting defensive, lashing out, or feeling bad about themselves.

Here are my top 5 recommendations:

  1. If this is your first time having a conversation like this, don’t wing it.You stand to benefit hugely from doing some preparation.
  2. Keep the conversation about the work.  It’s not about you, and it’s not about your boss. Assume the mindset that you and your boss are on the same team whose mission is to get the work done. 
  3. Keep the language neutral. Don’t paint yourself as wrong, bad, or ineffective. Don’t paint your boss as wrong, unreasonable, or mean (even if you think she or he is).
  4. Ask for clarification about priorities. “I thought you wanted me to keep A as my absolute top priority because it has such a tight schedule and so much is riding on it. Now you’re asking me to also work on B. Please help me understand — has the priority changed? Do you want me to let some of the A deadlines slide?” “Would you help me re-prioritize what’s on my plate, given the new assignment?”
  5. Go into the conversation with a written bullet list of what’s on your plate. This can be a strategic visual to have with you, particularly if you’re going to ask for help in re-prioritizing. It takes the pressure off you (and your boss) to remember everything that’s on your list.
  6. Anticipate the emotions (defensiveness, low self-esteem, anger, frustration) you might experience, and have a plan for how to deal with them so that they don’t sabotage your conversation. For example, if you’re likely to feel defensive about not being able to do everything, be prepared to recognize it in real time and deploy a tactic to restore your levelheadedness, such as anchoring or a silent affirmation.  

On a related note, if you suspect that your work habits are truly inefficient, address this issue.  For example, consider taking one of David Allen’s seminars. Many highly effective people swear by them.  

In short, if your to-do list has really become an impossible list, either get some help in optimizing your performance, or get some help from your boss. Or both. Either one is likely to reduce your work stress in the short term and lead to an all-around better situation for you in the long term.