Do you run your day or does the day run you?
Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;
- Do you find yourself easily distracted?
- Do you take longer to complete relatively simple tasks?
- At the end of the working day do you feel deflated as its mostly been unproductive?
- Is your sleep pattern disturbed?
- Are you tired more often than energised?
- Do you get irritated by little things?
- Are you checking your e-mails several times an hour?
- Is your smartphone always on and close to you at all times?
If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life. We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done. Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time. It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.
Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage. It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.
There are very many causes of negative stress. It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.
The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty. Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well. As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year. Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.
Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem. First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP. If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.
Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress. The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety. The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and
My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career. What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.
I have a theory. Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma. Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.
Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined. Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up? All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us. As life moved faster so did expectations. News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.
So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction. I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those? I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.
- Limit screen time – deliberately my first rule. Just see how productive you can be if you step away from the screen, PC, MAC or Smartphone. Browsing Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or even your e-mail inbox can drain your productivity, step away and see the benefit. One final point – turn the smartphone/ tablet off at night several hours before you go to bed, you’ll sleep better.
- Allow yourself to do fewer tasks. Give yourself a break, the trick is to focus on the things that are important so work out what they are and stick to dealing with them.
- Let prioritising and self-analysis of productivity become a habit
- Exercise and have a healthy diet. When we’re time starved we cut corners and often that can result in too many fast food meals which can leave us feeling sluggish and demotivated. Drink can also be used as a self-medication for stress but conversely it can add to feelings of depression and hinder a restful night’s sleep.
- Get organised. Being tidy with a system for filing important information can help enormously with your efficiency and taking control of your environment. It’s true that a cluttered office can lead to cluttered thinking.
- When something just has to be done allow yourself scope to lock yourself away to concentrate on the job in hand.
- Don’t be phased by a long “to do” list break the tasks down into absolutely must do’s down to non-priorities. Take them out one at a time.
- Don’t always start with the biggest task or greatest priority. We all perform better at different times of the day. If you’re an early bird and sharp first thing but fade after 4pm make sure you keep those taking tasks to the morning. If you’re otherwise inclined reverse it.
- Set time limits for certain tasks. You may have a job that’s going to take days possibly weeks. Set aside a proportion of time to take it on and work though it systematically. Break it down into sub tasks and monitor your progress.
- Reacquaint yourself with the word “No” be polite but assertive if you don’t have the time to take on a particular project don’t be afraid to say so – often things that seem urgent to others are not as pressing as they seem.
If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.