Stressed Out? Try Outsourcing The Small Stuff

08/23/2016 09:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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On a road trip last week, I noticed the car ahead of me kept changing speed: One minute it was going faster, the next minute, slower. I took a deep breath, focused for a few moments on how to transcend traffic, and tapped my brake pedal to turn off cruise control.

After another 5 minutes of this craziness, I decided to pass the car--one less stressful thing for me to deal with. In fact, knowing that stress literally shrinks your brain, I'm always looking for simple ways to reduce stress in my life. I want my ideas to be growing, not shrinking.

As I passed the car I thought, Why don't they just use their cruise control? Then they wouldn't need to worry about their speed. Why don't they just "outsource it"?

Over a span of several years I've learned how to automate, or outsource, certain aspects of my life--just as I do with the speed of my car. Outsourcing menial or repetitive tasks gives me more cognitive freedom to stay in creative flow, which is essential for someone like me. One thing less on my mind = more brain space + reduced stress. That's a perfect formula for my busy world.

I also recalled a recent conversation with my buddy Zac--whom I consider an Artificial Intelligence Guru--and his visions of the future. Zac says, "Think of artificial intelligence the way you think of apps. At first, assistants will pop up for individual tasks that we do daily. Eventually, these stand-alone features will merge to form one digital assistant that will do it all."

I'm excited by innovation and creative exploration, so I'm always seeking new ways to leverage the power of technology to make my life smoother and better balanced. Outsourcing small stuff is helping me do that.

In addition to the speed of my car, here are some other parts of my life that I've outsourced:

My calendar. Between my old-school calendar book (I still love it) and my electronic calendars on my phone and iMac, my appointments are always waiting for me somewhere else--not in my head. Virtual Assistants are starting to leave their digital footprint and they have tremendous potential for growth.

Social media. Using programs like Hootsuite, MailChimp, and other automated posting apps keeps my social media interactions specific and consistent. I also hired a social media company to create, post, and manage my social media postings--another task off my plate.

Voice texting/email. Ever since I realized what that tiny microphone button does on my onscreen keyboard, my texting/email life has never been the same! I love it--and so do my thumbs, which finally get a break.

Lights. Since I prefer my living spaces to have low lighting coming from different sources, I put lamps on timers so my lights turn on and off automatically each night. This way, the ambiance I want to create at night is already set so that I can relax and focus on my creative work.

Automatic/electronic payments. When I first learned about electronic banking back in the '90s, I was hooked. Having all my monthly payments on auto pay helps me keep to my budget. I know exactly how much is coming in and going out each month. Plus, with debit cards and Apple Pay, I barely use cash and I don't remember the last time I wrote a check.

My brain. Beyond electronic reminders, I still have a low-tech thing for little notes on colored paper. Okay, let's just categorize this as "sticky note obsession." Instead of attempting to remember to grab my lunch on the way out, I just post a sticky note reminder on the door. I've also been known to place sticky notes on the fridge, bathroom mirror, dashboard of my car, and even on my clothes. Hey--reminders are reminders, and one less thing on my mind could mean one more new idea.

Learn more about making healthy choices and reducing stress in Balancing Work, Relationships & Life in Three Simple Steps, or another book in Michael's collection at michaelsunnarborg.com/books