If you find it, let me know.

If it’s in a ditch somewhere, unable to get up by itself, give it a hand please. I’d appreciate it.

If it’s off learning how to become a ninja, just make sure it’s becoming the benevolent kind (not the kind that will karate chop good people 57 times before they hit the ground).

If it’s saving elephants from poachers, leave it be. It knows I’ve always wanted to do that and that’s pretty badass. I can live vicariously through it.

If it’s at a bar, remind it that I’m allergic to alcohol and to mostly focus on karaoke.

If you run into it at your favourite coffee shop early one Tuesday morning in November and you’re both feeling awkward that you’re meeting so far out of the usual context of my articles or podcast, then say hello politely, make one or two small-talk references about the weather and go about ordering your chai latte.

If you find it teaching rats new and exciting ways to eat and gather food in the subway system of your city, while being filmed, leave it alone—because that’s fucking awesome.

If you think you see my mind, call the number on the back of most (almond) milk cartons. There’s a small cash reward.

I’d like my mind back please.

• • •

Do you ever get a sense of dread or feel overwhelmed when you think about your list of what you need to do within a certain amount of time?

I do.

Especially lately.

Here’s what happened. Last year, since most of my income came from products and not client work, I decided to take a break from freelancing—you know, a break from guaranteed and great money. In doing so, my brain went like this:

  1. Finish up any/all client work.
  2. Freak out about money and make as many products as possible.
  3. Realize how much work is involved in making many products where the standards for quality are super high.
  4. 😳

You’ll see, I’ve been busy. Too busy. Stupidly busy, if I’m being honest.

I worry about overwhelming my audience with new things I’ve made (even though, really, there’s no pressure from me to buy anything that you don’t really want/need). I worry about the quality of the work, since I set sometimes-impossibly high standards for what I produce.

When I get stressed, I forget why I’m making these products in the first place: because I want to help folks and make a living. One of the things I value the most from being alive is being helpful and making things that help other people. And I lose sight of that when I’m in the weeds of my mind (or, when it runs away).

So, I let myself freak out for a few days. I lost my mind a little (and hopefully it was off doing something spectacular in it’s absence from me).

Once my mind found it’s way back to me, I was like, “GET IT TOGETHER MAN”.  Because stress and overwhelm is not at all productive.

(Note: my mind has the voice of Ben Fong-Torres from Almost Famous.)

Then I made a list of what needs doing. From emails that need writing and scheduling to videos that need recording, I wrote out every single thing I need to do for every single launch. It was a big list too, since every launch is more than a single email, and comes with automation sequences, reminders and free samples.

Even though the list was scary, I felt a tiny bit better. Then I turned that list into a spreadsheet with dates and colour-coded what was already done and what needed doing by when. I listed out every task I need to complete between now and the end of March. It’s a long list, but I felt better knowing it was written down somewhere.

I transferred my stress and overwhelm from my mind (which isn’t a good place for it) to a digital document (which doesn’t give a shit if it’s holding my stress and overwhelm). Now those feels live there. And now I can get to work.

Most of the time we stress out about things because we haven’t started them yet or haven’t broken them down into smaller, accomplishable tasks that are planned out. And instead of working, we freak out.

Having something big that you need to do coming up in the future is less scary when there’s a plan in place. When you spreadsheet the shit out of something, you can stop worrying and thinking about it, because the entire plan doesn’t have to live just in your brain anymore. You don’t have to walk slowly and deftly with a cup of work that’s full to the brim.

If my mind decides to leave again, I’ll make sure it’s got a GPS tracking device attached to its ankle. Or, even better, I’ll make sure it deals with stress and overwhelm first, before they take over and force my mind into hiding again.

Hi, I'm Paul Jarvis. I write a weekly newsletter called the Sunday Dispatches where I share articles about working and living online with 35k subscribers: