A 10-minute exercise for handling stress in your marriage

What do you really want? is a weekly conversation to help you figure out what you really want and how to get it at work and in life.


Anyone else feeling quarantine fever? We definitely are. Given the uptick in frustration and burnout, I wanted to share an exercise my wife and I have been doing for years when one or both of us are stressed. We call it a whiteboard session.

We sit at our whiteboard (or computer, pen+paper, etc) and go through these 3 steps:

  1. List out everything on both your minds.

    Problems, commitments, questions, todos, frustrations … everything. Just write it all down. This process cultivates awareness of what’s on your mind (often stress can come from knowing there’s a lot of stuff but not being able to get your arms around it). Doing this with a spouse is a great way to increase communication (which is key for great marriages).

  2. Organize the list.

    Group like things, start to order/prioritize. Is anything urgent? Put that toward the top. Any dependencies? Put those things together. The process of both talking about how to organize is (again) a great way to communicate.

  3. Decide how to handle the most pressing things.

    Now let’s act. Which items need to get done next? Put them on your calendar or to-do list.

A bonus activity that can help is breaking step 1 into “What’s going well?” followed by “What’s not going well?” This can help by starting things on the positive.

While this activity is especially helpful for marriage, any partnership can use this process to get unstuck and move forward. I’ve also used this alone at times.

The act of writing down what’s on your mind, being a little more present, and intentionally becoming aware + making meaning + taking action is liberating. (tweet this)

This process above is a part of what we call a decision sprint at Sprintwell. You can use it with up to 8 people (a facilitator is a must once you go beyond a team of 3).

Every time my wife, Katrina (she writes @deliberatefamily), and I go through this, we find ourselves better able to breathe and more confident about moving forward.

Yes, I married up. 😁

The last lesson about handling stress is that it’s not something many people share publicly. It’s easy to get jealous of everyone’s “perfect life” on social media when you only see the happy times.

But everyone has issues. Every company/marriage/parenting/relationship has parts that are very frustrating. We just need to work extra hard to remember that in today’s hyper-connected world.

Take time to do the activity tonight or tomorrow and let me know how it goes.

My company just announced a free virtual gathering later this spring called Abound. We believe that burnout isn’t only an individual issue. Companies have the opportunity and responsibility to address burnout through increased leadership awareness and understanding of work experience design.

Feel free to join the waitlist if you’d like to be part of the conversation.