People build stress by thinking about an issue all day or get into a cycle where worrying about something leads to the the behaviour we were worried about, such as eating too much because we spend too much time worrying about gaining weight. We have to break these cycles in order to reduce stress and accomplish our goals. To accomplish this, blogger Tim Horie recommends that we divide our day into three distinct operational modes: thinking, doing and relaxing.
Photo by Jukka Zitting
On the surface that is pretty obvious. But similar to how capturing actions in the Getting Things Done philosophy removes the need to remember everything, having a distinct time to think about our problems and goals and only allowing worrying and planning during those times is rather freeing. When the time comes for the second mode, doing, we will work on our goals and not analyse them. This is similar to the philosophy behind National Novel Writing Month -- you're not trying to edit and create a publishable novel, you're just trying to get enough words down that something is accomplished for the day.
Once you're able to set aside time for pure thought and action without analysis you should be able to let everything go for a few hours to relax with a movie, exercising or spending time with friends.
If you spend a week or so giving the Three Operational Modes technique a try you might find that you have become more productive and less stressed as your thoughts and worries aren't creeping into your work or relaxation time.