Our work days are increasingly busy. Most people I know deal with a constant stream of requests, meetings and emails. We try to get our planned work done so we can deliver in our role. Sometimes this leads to an overwhelming feeling. A stress that takes over the mind and prevents us making progress with anything. As a result we feel less productive. And of course, that can lead to further stress. Does this happen to you? Read on for some tips on how to manage stress in your workday?
Try to Stay Calm
The first thing to be aware of is how emotion affects our ability to think clearly. High emotion diminishes logical thinking and decision making. So we can end up spending time on the wrong things.
So try to notice when you are more emotional and do something about it. With a calm mind, we can make better decisions about which tasks to prioritise. This helps us move forward and this calms the mind further.
Tip 1 – Take Control with A Plan
One way to avoid stress building up is to get ahead of it. We can do this by looking ahead each week and making a plan. This gives you a focus on the key things you want to achieve. And it helps you reset when things get busy and overwhelming. List out the 1, 2 or 3 key things. Keep this list visible as a reminder during the week.
Adding Time Blocks to your calendar helps you protect time for these priority tasks. Otherwise your day may be taken up with responsive work: dealing with a constant flow of emails, meeting requests, calls, etc.
You may need to agree these priorites with others (your manager, colleagues or key stakeholders), in advance. This helps you negotiate your response time when new requests arise. You can compare each task against the pre-agreed priorities and make a better decision. You may need to do both tasks, but you can negotiate the timeline.
Check this blog for further tips on ‘How to Manage Requests from Your Stakeholders‘.
Tip 2 – Take Action
We mentioned above that a way to calm your mind on a stressful day, is to take action. It can be a simple action like writing down everything that is buzzing around your mind. By doing this you clear space in your head to think more clearly. Then review the list and pick out the key things you can do now, today.
Assess the situation. If a piece of work will not be delivered on time, it is better to let the stakeholder know rather than do nothing. By doing this you can provide an alternative and reassure the person that you are working on it. This action again reduces stress, because now you will worry less about it.
Tip 3 – Reset Frequently
Some days are non stop with back to back meetings, calls and projects. Our focus and calm diminishes throughout the day. This is a spiraling effect. To prevent it, get into the habit of resetting between tasks.
The idea here is to optimise your performance for the next meeting or task. But it also helps you capture the important thoughts or actions from the activity just completed. Before you move on. This helps you prepare for the next task with a clearer mind, no matter what has happened already that day.
Before your next meeting, take 60 seconds to consider – what is this about, do I need to prepare anything, what questions do I want to ask, what questions am I likely to be asked? Even that short reset can help you perform better in the meeting.
Resetting in the Moment
- Between meetings or tasks
- Capture notes or actions while you remember
- Then focus on the next task
- What outcome do you want?
A reset at the end of the day has a similar impact. Taking 5 to 10 minutes to reset can help to keep stress levels low. This helps you switch off after work and get better sleep. Which, of course, means you will be calmer the next day.
Resetting at the End of the Day
- Check your plan
- What progress was made?
- What is new?
- What do I need to reprioritise?
- Do I need to update anyone?
Tip 4 – Discuss Workload Overwhelm
If we don’t do anything about workload overwhelm, things usually gets worse. They rarely get better! We often feel reluctant to discuss workload. But, remember, others may not be aware of the situation. So discuss this with the person who can help you.
The key thing is to present the facts in a productive way. Prepare what you will say in terms of the work and it’s status. Describe any new factors or challenges. Don’t dive in and have an emotional download. Keep calm and present your ideas and suggestions to move things forward.
Consider the other person’s perspective. What will they want to hear? What is their key focus? Discuss things in these terms. Your aim is to have a calm, objective conversation about the work, rather than your performance. Focusing on the work rather than ourselves can make this easier to do it.
Be Productive, Make Changes
Here is a summary of all the tips above:
- Plan ahead to Take Control
- Set out key priorities
- Use Time Blocks to protect time
- Notice when you are stressed
- Take Action
- Use a Reset between tasks
- Reset at the end of the day
- Present the facts /solutions
- Consider the other perspective
To help you do this, download the ’60 Second Rest’ worksheet from the beproductive.ie Resources page
Productivity Training and Resources
Access many other productivity articles on our website on topics like Tips for Hybrid Working, Managing Email and Managing Your Stakeholders. We work with individuals and companies to help them get important things done with less stress, through our Productivity & Wellbeing Workshops, Webinars and Seminars.
If you want to make changes that last, my signature Productivity Programme is called ‘Turn Busy into Productive’. With this online course you can develop new skills in your own time, at your own pace.
To discuss any of these options, contact Productivity Consultant Moira Dunne here.
Written by Productivity Consultant Moira Dunne, founder and director of beproductive.ie