When we lived in California, water was precious. We lived in one of the worst drought-stricken areas in the state and were conscious of every drop we used. A leaking faucet—even just a small drip—got our attention immediately, knowing those constant drips had a cumulative effect.

Stress is the same as a leaking faucet. Ignore those small drips and you’ll be dealing with the cumulative effects of stress.

Here are some common ways stress can drip into your life:

Using your mind as a to do list

As David Allen says in Getting Things Done, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” Trying to use your mind as a reminder system creates stress, because your mind doesn’t understand why you’re not completing it NOW. Offload your mind from being your reminder system and you’ll lower your stress. When something comes to mind, capture it into trusted inbox.

Checking without deciding

Checking email is not the same as deciding email. We pay a price every time we do quick checks of email without making a decision. Many people have gotten into the habit of doing this at night and weekends with their work email, convincing themselves a “quick check” is harmless. They open the email, digest it, close it, and leave it in the inbox—but their mind stays hooked into that unclarified email, which won’t get resolved until a decision is made about what it is and what you want to do about it.

Staying constantly connected to work

There will never be a shortage of new input. Email will continue to pour in. Give your mind and body a break from the feeling of being constantly connected. 

Ignoring what really has your attention

What thoughts wake you up at night? What do you keep telling yourself you should think, care, or do something about that you haven’t? Give your stress a voice. Capture everything that has your attention—which is very different than asking, “What do I need to do?”

Look for the small leaks in your life. Trust your system. Clear your mind. 


  • Kelly Forrister

    Getting Things Done® Expert

    I am passionate about productivity, technology, and well-being and the integration of those to help us live happier and healthier lives.