Seemingly insurmountable worries that pop up when I [try to] sleep

I recently implemented a system that has revolutionized my sleep quality, particularly my ability to fall asleep and avoid stress dreams.

It’s super-simple, guys:  write down your worries, to-dos, upcoming tasks, and the like the evening before bed, in schedule form. Before I tell you more about my new system, a little background…

Jim and I are getting married in California this year, so in March we took a trip to the wedding and reception venues to get a lay of the land and do some research.  The two weeks before our week-long trip, I was completely flooded with work: I had meetings with publishers, a schedule to make, articles to write, errands to run, bags to pack, and eight trillion wedding-related tasks to accomplish (or at least plan for). I was having a lot of trouble falling asleep because I was so distracted by these pangs of worry as I remembered one thing after another that I had to do before we left town.

Much of the time, I work from my home office, which actually provides me with a lot less structure than a typical office job would. On days I’m not at my home office, I’m at the bookshop, where a to-do list might as well be set on fire for warmth for all its worth: a busy retail store that has no back office is not the environment you need if you want to hunker down and really get in the zone with your list of tasks.  In short, I was (and am) lacking structure no matter where I work.

So let’s rewind to one particular night in early March when my thoughts were spinning like crazy in my head. Even reading, my go-to pre-bed activity, wasn’t working, because I couldn’t concentrate on the words due to how distracted I was with my thoughts.

And that’s when I got out my notebook and a pen and wrote out my schedule for the next day. The relief I felt was immediate.  No longer were the to-dos crowding my thoughts and overwhelming me. I now had them out of my brain and on to paper. And unlike my typical never-ending list of tasks, this was different in that I had assigned a time frame for each thing. My idea was that if I didn’t finish a particular task in the time I had designated, I would still move onto the next thing.

Since that first list, I have found a lot of relief in doing this a couple of times a week and am trying to do it daily.

Just FYI, one of my lists looked something this (imagine frenzied scrawl instead of a typewritten note)—you can see that I am liberal with my use of exclamation points:

  • 7:00-8:00: Wake up, make coffee, read
  • 8:00-9:00: writing/work
  • 9:00-9:30: shower, breakfast (cereal?) - make smoothie!!
  • 9:30-11:00: Avid accounting—don’t forget to email publisher about forthcoming check!
  • 11:00-11:45: prepare for meeting with T.
  • 11:45-12:00: drive to Avid; grab deposit bag from safe
  • 12:00-1:00: bank, errands (JANET: your cat will be sad and hungry if you don't finally go buy some dang food for him!)
  • 1:00-1:45: lunch with J.
  • 1:45-3:45: misc. Avid tasks (check on school orders and see if purchase orders were approved)
  • 3:45-4:15: call L. back!
  • 4:15-6:00: call wedding furniture company; ask J. about mutual account payment

Do any of you schedule your days out like this? (I realize that waking up with a migraine means you can’t necessarily stick to a schedule.)  Do you have any other tried and true methods for handling stress and sleeping better without medication?

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