It’s so easy to let a project or a long list of tasks become daunting.  And the moment you feel overwhelmed by something on your to-do list, the more slippery the slope becomes.  The anxiety builds and the procrastination exponentially grows along with your stress and new avoidance tactics.

As a coach, I run into a lot of projects that seem insurmountable only because of the anxiety and doubt that is amplified before starting the project.  For this reason, it’s important to strike when the iron is hot and the task is new, before your mind starts doubting your abilities.  If you miss the small window of opportunity at the beginning of the task, it will be harder to build momentum and push the project forward.

Here’s how to deal with anxiety during your project.

We are going to make a list.  First you should consider the entire task at a high level.  What is the ultimate goal?  Write your goal at the top of the document.

Before you start the list, do a brief review of any materials you have in hand.  Read through procedures, instructions or general information and note any followup questions.  Don’t try to memorize the materials, just get an overall understanding of it.

Start the list.  Brainstorm quickly all of the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to reach the ultimate goal – do not allow yourself to start dwelling or analyzing certain tasks, just jot them down quickly.  Give yourself 5 minutes and start a timer.  Note every minor detail and task, no matter how small it seems.  Note other people’s tasks too, especially if their task is dependent on your project getting done.

Creating this list alone is a huge stress reliever.  The list replaces the fear of forgetting a task and it will no longer nag at you while you are trying to sleep.  That’s really why you can’t sleep, for fear of missing a deadline or forgetting a task.  So let the list worry about it for you.

Now. Select two tasks from your list that you can accomplish immediately.  Get them done right away and call it a day.  Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.  Schedule two more tasks you will accomplish the next day and four more tasks the following day.  This is very important.  The more time you let lapse between tasks, the more difficult it will be to continue the momentum.  You want to increase the number of tasks because by this time you’ll be riding the wave and there will be less friction.  I’m not kidding when I say that if you tackle these tasks (and your fears), you will feel high from the adrenalin pumping through you, which will cause more momentum and excitement.

As you work through your daily tasks you might run into a few that seem too big or intimidating to tackle.  This is where you will create another list to tackle the micro-project.  Start brainstorming all the little things you have to do to accomplish this micro-task.  Pick two things from the micro-list you just created to accomplish right away and get them done.  Schedule more tasks to accomplish the next day.

The pattern you are seeing has a little to do with motivation and a lot to do with gaining confidence when you tackle your fear.  When you imagine a task that creates some fear inside you, it is much easier to avoid the task completely and put it off to the last minute or forever.  Instead, you have to get in the habit each day of facing those fears and gaining strength from that accomplishment.

If you’ll notice, as you start facing your anxiety and breaking the tasks down into smaller pieces, your motivation and momentum increases noticeably.  And once that wheel is set in motion, going down that hill, it becomes unstoppable.