The Golden Road To Productivity: Start Releasing Stress!
Everyone experiences stress, even amoebas! Stress is an important emotion to feel; without it, you’re at risk of becoming a zero-energy couch potato! However, too much stress or stress over prolonged periods is downright unhealthy. This gets magnified in the workplace due to the modern productivity conundrum of “it’s never been easier or more difficult to be productive.” If you’ve read my recent article on Breaking The Negativity Loop, you understand just how tricky the stress factor can be. But with a little understanding of how the brain works, a true desire to be less frantic, and a commitment to making small changes in the way you conduct business, you will better manage stress, producing more and better work in less time.
The first stressor to address is your relationship to “busy-ness”. Here’s a quick self-quiz to gauge where you stand in this department:
-When someone asks you how you are, is your answer, “Busy. Crazy busy.”?
-Do you feel like there’s just not enough time to do what you need to do?
-Do you find yourself not completing your priorities because you’re “just too busy” to fit them in?
If you’re courageous enough to admit to these states, you’re ready to live a less stressed life! Let’s look closer.
168 Minus 109 Equals Living!
The first step is to recognize that you can’t change a situation, but you do get to decide how to respond or react. Mindset is a big factor in managing the stress of life. And if you can accept that there is enough time to do the work that is essential to fulfilling your aspirations, you’re positioned well to kick that stress.
Take a moment to do a little math with me, and you’ll become a believer. There are 168 hours in a week. Let’s assume that you’re indulging in your health and wellbeing by getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night (which is also essential for clear thinking and therefore, productivity), and working 60 hours a week (which, studies have found is 10 hours too many to be ultimately productive). This still leaves 59 hours for everything else in your life.
The reason this belief is so powerful is because it keeps your amygdala dormant, which allows your prefrontal cortex to fully engage, resulting in more being accomplished in less time. The amygdala feels no threat of time shortages, letting people down, missing deadlines.
The Big Things First
Another key to mitigating workplace stress is utilizing the time you spend attending to the right kind of work. This begins with boxing out mental energy drains and “busy work”. You’ll be left with the time and headspace to do what’s most important each day. Time Management Expert Laura Vanderkam advises getting the big things done by anchoring your priorities into your calendar (try it right now, and then return to read the rest of this article!).
I know you love getting the easy stuff done and crossing things off your to-do list! But if you can flip that thinking, and get the most important things done each day, you’re on the golden road.
Refresh and Restore!
Your mind is a precious commodity. But working full-tilt for hours at a time just wastes your mental energy. The energy required for full focus and creativity is short lived, but is quick to recharge. How do you typically spend the 5 minutes before a call or a meeting, or when you’re standing in line at the pharmacy? I know….scrolling through your smart phone. What happens when you’re up against a huge deadline? Do you power through and lock yourself and your team into a conference room for a 12-hour day with lunch delivered? This, of course, is the WORST thing you can do! Quick refreshes throughout the day result in a longer duration of productive work. Here are three ideas for a quick refresh:
Stand Up and Move: It turns out that sitting isn’t the new smoking. Stillness is. Listen to my interview with Roland Denzel for more details on how lack of physical movement is detrimental to your health. But as a great first step, stand up and move away from your desk every 30 to 45 minutes. Go for a glass of water, use the washroom, or take a walk around the office and make eye contact with your workmates. “Taking 5” every hour will enhance your ability to focus during the other 55 minutes.
Eyes On The Prize: Occasionally, look out the office window and extend your vision as far as you can see. After staring at your computer all day, your eyes and your neck will thank you for the different focus!
The One-Minute Meditation: Gift yourself with a clear advantage before a meeting or a phone call. Set your timer for one minute and connect with your breath. Did you know that in just one minute’s time, your brain’s neurons can realign? Read more about it here.
Don’t have even a minute to spare? How about three breaths? The first can be a deep, cleansing breath. Feel the cool air being drawn into your nostrils as your chest expands and your lungs fill. Notice how the air exits your lungs. Ahhh, nice. During the second breath, check in with your emotions. How are you feeling? Anxious? Excited? Agitated? Defensive? With the third breath, ask yourself “What is most important in this moment?”
This week, check in and ask yourself about your stress. Then, check back next week when we’ll address anxiety.
If you enjoy what you’re reading and are considering living life more fully, schedule a complimentary consultative session with DRIVEN HERE.