Last updated: Jun 07, 2010
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Q: Im so stressed that I forget things, like where I put my keys and plans with friends. Help!

A: The first thing to do is stop panicking—and stop telling yourself that youre losing your mind. Stress can interfere with memory and creative thinking, so the more you calm down about not remembering, the better youll actually remember. On the practical side, organizational guru David Allen says that everything you need to get done belongs out of your head and into a tracking system so you can let go of trying to remember it. That alone will reduce stress.

Put plans with friends and other to-do items on a calendar, and refer to it daily. (Set an alarm on your computer or cell phone as reminders, if necessary.) For things you often lose, like keys and sunglasses, pick an easy place to keep them—a tray on the foyer table, for example—and get in the habit of putting them there when youre not using them. That way, youll be far less likely to leave items in random places.

Q: My job is very demanding, and its hard to shut out my BlackBerry at night. Any tips?

A: You have to be convinced that your e-mail is not worth looking at. For two weeks, give yourself a deadline (no checking e-mail between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., for instance) and see how you feel.

My clients often notice that their work doesnt suffer significantly, they sleep better, and they have more time for themselves. Once you see the benefits, keeping your commitment to yourself—and logging off from your work e-mail—will be a lot easier.

Q: I get flustered when I talk to someone who has authority, like my boss or a store manager. How can I feel more relaxed and confident?

A: Before you begin a conversation, ask yourself the outcome youre hoping for. A refund? A raise? Empathy from the other person about your situation? (I cant tell you the number of times Ive asked clients what they want out of a conversation and heard them say, “I have no idea.”) Then, when you begin talking, state the issue and your dream outcome: “I would like a refund for my broken toaster oven.” The clearer you are on what you want, the easier it will be for you to speak up and get what you want.

One move that will help calm your nerves: Write down your main points on a note card and practice what youre going to say with a friend or family member beforehand. That way, youll go in prepared and wont forget the key talking points.