10 Top tips will help you keep stress under control
Demands on our time seem to get greater every week, and with them come greater levels of stress. It may well be that third party intervention is needed to help some people overcome their personal stress, but for those who have it under control, Solo Expenses would like to offer ten top stress management tips to hold it at bay more effectively.
A colleague used to work in a business where long hours were some kind of misguided badge of honour. The management ethos was to find out what an individual could cope with, and then to add a little more.
It wasn’t the Wall Street world of ruthless stockbroker Gordon Gekko, but Gekko’s oft-quoted line of ‘lunch is for wimps’ fitted it to a ‘T’; it was a world in which one manager was frequently heard to say: “Stress? I’m a carrier. I don’t suffer from it; I just give it to other people.”
It is an outmoded culture, and one that has fortunately long-since ceased to exist. However, stress remains. It’s being seen as a larger issue than ever before in business in the UK, but the jury’s still out on whether that’s because it’s a growing problem, or because we’re more aware of it than ever before. In either case, the need for stress management is greater too.
Why productivity becomes a problem
The trouble is that it’s hard to see. It exists in the head of the sufferer, and some individuals are better at dealing with it than others, even in apparently similar circumstances. From a management point of view it’s worth remembering that overloaded individuals, like overloaded machinery, don’t function as well as they might. We recall the students who crammed too much clothing into a launderette washing machine. So much stuff went in that some of it hadn’t even got wet, never mind washed, by the end of the wash cycle. And so it is with individuals; loaded with too much work they’ll not only not get it all done, but will function less efficiently because they’re intimidated by the overflowing in basket, and productivity will suffer.
Is professional stress management intervention necessary?
Nevertheless, stress is very real, and individuals suffering from it, at home or at work, need support. If you’re one of those people, you need to be aware that there’s no shame in suffering from stress. At work the oft-quoted advice is ‘see your line manager’, which is fine unless it’s the line manager that’s the cause of the stress. In that case you need to pluck up the courage to talk to a third party, like someone in the HR department or your GP. If you think you’re suffering from excessive stress levels, and your health is poorer as a result, it would be good to consider what the Health and Safety Executive has to say in the subject, which can be found here.
Stress is a complex subject, and not something we can deal with effectively in this blog, but we’d like to offer these ten simple tips to keep it under control.
The Solo Expenses guide to stress management
1. Do it once: Handle a piece of paper only once. If you’ve picked up a piece of paper, or looked at an email, deal with it there and then. Don’t put it down and come back to it later, because you’re wasting time and adding to your stress levels.
2. Focus: Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the ‘ping’ of an arriving email. Set aside a couple of slots in your day to deal with them, and consider setting up an automatic reply to tell correspondents that’s the way you work. Item 3 will help with your ‘on-task’ focus.
3. Don’t multi-task: You’ll hear people say ‘I’m good at multi-tasking’. This is a cover. What they’re actually saying is that they can’t focus, and the sub-text is: ‘I’m a butterfly. I jump from one task to another all the time and struggle to finish things off’. The trouble with that approach is that no task gets their full attention and they all take longer to complete.
4. Have a laugh: Humour lifts the spirits and helps you work more effectively. We know of one firm where the MD regularly visited his PR man and said: “Make me laugh”. The whole organisation benefitted as a result.
5. Don’t try to remember everything: Give yourself less to do by ditching the need to remember everything. Take the pressure off your brain by starting the day with a list of things you need to do. Firstly, you don’t have to remember to do them (and forget them because of what else is happening), and secondly, when you cross them off as complete (we recommend a brightly-coloured highlighter) you can see what you’ve done. Add new tasks to the list through the day. By the end of business you can see what you really did. Chances are it’ll be more than you thought you’d done, and you can feel good about it.
6. Get out: Gekko was wrong. Getting out for even a short time in the middle of the day gives you a change of scene, the chance for a brisk walk and to think about something else. It re-energises you for the afternoon’s tasks, and may even allow the subconscious to come up with a solution to a problem that seemed intractable in the morning.
7. Eat and drink: You’ll work more efficiently if you’re properly nourished – but be alive to the negative effects of caffeine and sugar. Fresh and unprocessed food is best, and water or milk are far better than proprietary drinks for rehydration.
8. Start early: No, don’t arrive at work early, but by all means make a start on one of tomorrow’s jobs during this afternoon. If you can make time to do that, then you’ll feel better in the morning, knowing that a slice of the day’s work has been accomplished before you’ve even taken off your coat.
9. Lean on technology: Smartphone apps like our own free-to-download Solo Expenses can aid productivity by shouldering the burden of the administration we all get caught up in. Our software helps you record and collate all manner of expenses, but you can also find tools to keep track of your diary, order taxis, and pay for parking, all with the flick of a thumb.
10. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’: Presented with a problem caused by someone else’s failure to act, by all means offer to help, but make it plain that you’re going out of your way to do so. Tell them you’ll do it when your own schedule permits, and that under no circumstances will you accept any responsibility for failure to hit a deadline or achieve an objective. Be prepared to say ‘no’. If the question’s being asked by your boss, be brave enough to ask which task they think you should set aside to tackle the new one, and watch them feel uncomfortable. Stand your corner now, and you’re less likely to be backed into one in the future. You might even like to make a notice for your office wall based on this blog’s illustration. Faced with an unreasonable request, all you would need to do is point to it…