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Feeling overwhelmed? Feminist hero Billie Jean King has your back

Billie Jean King at the U.S. Open in 2017 Pin It

To-do lists are great when you want to stay on top of your goals, but terrible when they get so long that one look sends you into an anguished, hopeless spiral. Here’s the thing, though: If you’re really trying to get things done, you just can’t freak out.

Take it from Billie Jean King—tennis legend, social activist, all-around rad human—whose highly publicized match against Bobby Riggs in 1973 inspired the new film Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. Under enormous pressure to cave to the sexist norms of the time, King managed to keep her integrity and beat Riggs in straight sets.

“Take the lessons you learn on the court off the court,” King said on Sunday while promoting the movie. “We think [of] one ball at a time. Staying in the now. You plan your goals, you put ’em down, and you figure out how you’re going to do ’em.” By breaking your to-do list into manageable parts, you’ll be able to cross things off one at a time without feeling overwhelmed.

“Great champions say, ‘Give me the ball. I want the chance to hit it.’ Embrace it instead of trying to push it back.”

It’s also important to breathe, which is something King learned to do as an athlete. “Get your breathing under control because that helps you calm down.” Try inhaling for four seconds, then exhaling for four seconds.

Most of all, King believes in facing challenges head-on. The prospect of giving a big presentation at work might be daunting, for instance, but changing the way you feel about it will make you more successful. King’s advice: Remind yourself that you can handle the situation—and then go for it with gusto. “Great champions say, ‘Give me the ball. I want the chance to hit it.’ Those are things you carry over into everyday life,” King said. “Embrace it instead of trying to push it back.” Positive thinking for the win!

Another reason you might be having trouble with your to-do list is procrastination. Ready to bust out of the habit? Here’s how. And if you want to thrive in all areas of your life, read how you can start now.