By Moira Dunne
Increasingly people in the business world are feeling more stressed and less in control. Mobile technology requires instant response. Projects are constantly changing. Response time expected from managers and customers is getting shorter and shorter. As a result a large part of the day can be spent on unplanned work. And the priority work for our role within our organisations doesn’t always get done no matter how many plans or To-Do lists we create. Here are some tips on how to Reduce Stress By Taking Control.
STRESS AND FRUSTRATION
The working world can be both frustrating and stressful. And once that stress kicks in it can be hard to think straight. Hard to make the right decisions and hard to be strategic.
Too often we try to reduce the stress by working longer hours. But of course, in the long run that’s bad for us and bad for our business too.
So what is actually going on? Why are so many business professionals feeling this stress? And why is the problem getting bigger as our technology gets smarter?
THE BUSINESS WORLD HAS CHANGED
The way we do work has changed radically in recent years. But the problem is that few of us have adjusted the way we approach work to reflect this. Here is a list of some of these changes:
- Constant stream of requests on multiple devices
- Instant communication has created an expectation of instant response
- Our contactable hours are longer
- We have decreased downtime to refresh and reset
- All notifications disrupt us to the same extent
- Our mobile devices are used in both work and personal lives
We need additional skills to deal with our changed world. And we need to strategically adjust the way we approach the working week.
DIFFERENT APPROACH TO WORK
Most people in business apply good Time Management skills such as planning, scheduling and creating task lists. But these skills were designed for a simpler 9 to 5 working day. A time when we left our work behind us and refreshed when we went home. We read books or newspapers on our commute and the only technology in our bedroom was an alarm clock!
Nowadays because of the constant flow of new work and requests throughout the day, we need to be able to: 1) constantly reassess priorities, 2) stay focussed on planned work and 3) say no to less important work.
To reassess priorities quickly use a simple question: “If I say yes to this new request what tasks am I saying no to”?
In a split second you clarify what work is not going to get done if you take on an unplanned task.
But to make the correct decisions you firstly need to do a bit of background thinking and planning about the overall goals for your business. Then set weekly goals so you have ongoing clarity about your priorities. Then your daily and hourly decisions about what to prioritises will be well informed.
It can be hard to stay tuned in throughout the day to constantly realise what is happening and where your time is going. This is because we often react to new requests without thinking of the time implications or we can spend too long on a planned task.
Who hasn’t done a quick Email check and spent an hour or two longer than planned? The work you do might be important but it may not be the most important thing at that moment in time.
To counteract this use frequent checkpoints. Assess your progress as you move from one task to another. Ask yourself:
- Am I still on track?
- If not why not?
- What (or who) distracted me?
- How can I stop this happening again?
If you are spending too long on tasks, try using a timer to limit yourself and give yourself a chance to move on.
BE PROACTIVE, TAKE CONTROL
In summary – the world we do business in has changed so we need to change the way we do business. Reduce stress by taking control:
- Be clear about your priorities
- Re-evaluate throughout the day
- Use your most productive time for your most important jobs
- Say no sometimes (see Tips on Saying No)
- Manage your attention using checkpoints and timers
- Manage your energy by taking breaks and refuelling
By making some simple changes you can take back control of your time. Be proactive and your work life will be less stressful and more productive.