“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.”
Client Elias asks: I feel like my work performance is being compromised by stress. And carrying all that stress is exhausting—sooner or later, I feel like I’m just going to collapse. How can I start dealing with it?
Coach Joel answers: Elias, you’re not alone—work is a major cause of stress for 65% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). And none of us should settle for feeling stressed all the time. A little surge of stress can be good—the kind that gets you in gear to meet a deadline—but chronic stress is debilitating.
Workplace stress can come from small, repeated annoyances, or it can stem from major issues with your job role or organizational culture. Many of us suffer from “rush syndrome,” the fear of slowing down. Sometimes we don’t even realize how stressed we’ve been until we learn to relax. These 10 stress reduction techniques will help you start feeling like the superstar you are.
- Keep a Journal
Keep a journal for a couple of weeks to track your stress, suggests the APA. Simply acknowledging your stress and affirming you’re going to address it feels good, and it’s a first step to making changes.
- Get Organized
Clutter leads to stress, because we know it’s something that needs to be dealt with. It’s like seeing little tasks piled up in front of you—it creates a sense of overwhelm. Take a little time to clear out that clutter, and you’ll find your mind is clearer as well.
- Practice Good Posture
Sitting up straight not only projects confidence, but gives you more confidence as well, according to Time. If you get into a crouched-down pose, it will make you more fearful and stressed, because your mind is responding to your body. These techniques for reducing stress can help improve your posture and make your body feel better, which brings more stress-reducing benefits.
- Engage in Deep Breathing
According to Sharon Melnick in Success Under Stress, by regulating your breath, you can break unconscious emotional patterns that persist through short, stressed breathing. Set an intention to consciously take several deep breaths at different points throughout the day, ideally before you feel extreme stress coming on.
- Prepare for the Next Day
Fretting over what you need to do the next day, or how a meeting will go, creates a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, at the end of each workday, create a plan for what you’ll do the next day. Prepare thoughts you want to share at the meeting, along with a manageable “to do” list.
- Create Work/Life Boundaries
If you’re checking email at night, you’re probably carrying extra stress around. Set clear work/life boundaries for yourself, and stick to them, the APA advises.
- Get Active
If you’re not getting regular exercise, make that a daily part of your routine. Even if you work out in the evening, add some physical activity to your workday, as active breaks can lower stress. Take a walk during your lunch break, for example.
- Check the Self-Criticism
Write down your greatest accomplishments and words of appreciation from others on notecards that you can keep tucked in your desk or posted on your wall. When you feel self-criticism coming on, check this self-defeating behavior by reminding yourself of those moments. This will help you stay positive as you work to overcome your inevitable challenges.
- Laugh More
Watch a silly video on your break, or share a story about something funny your kid did. Breaking the tension with laughter will put you in a better emotional state.
- Take Charge of Your Career
Lack of job satisfaction, few opportunities to advance or grow, and unclear performance expectations are major causes of workplace stress, says the APA. If these things are contributing to your stress, make a career plan now. Talk to your boss to enlist support, letting her know you want to grow with the organization.
Furthermore, try not to stress about your work stress. You’re not failing if you don’t address it all at once—implementing coping strategies takes time, as Martha Davis says in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Be patient with yourself as you begin using these techniques for stress reduction, knowing no one gets it all right all at once.
Is stress holding you back at work? Contact leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for more support in reducing stress and changing your life.
Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker ~
Kevin had been hired to turn the company around. He arrived to find a sluggish, apathetic staff. Most were warry of the change and unwilling to stick their neck out for anything.
Kevin moved immediately to work on the three things that would most affect your employee’s productivity. He knew he had to energize the workforce. He had to learn who could rise to the top and which employees are worth letting go.
The PVI Model— Perception, Visibility, Influence— seemed designed to empower employees to take back control of their careers. Keven felt sure once they saw the impact they could have in influencing those around them, they would become energized and increase productivity.
- Perception. Kevin started educating his workforce on both how he perceived them and what he knew they were capable of. He encouraged them to look within themselves for their strengths and talents.
“Sharing what you know and can do is not bragging,” he said. “It helps us use your strengths in key places. You can enjoy your work more and we can produce more when we match your strengths to our needs.”
Kevin was quick to value employees who spent the time looking at how they were perceived and then acted in a way to increase positive responses.
- Visibility. Sometimes it was hard to see who really had the greatest talents. It wasn’t just those who talked about it the most. But it was essential for Kevin to find the rising stars. So he deliberately cultivated a culture of people willing to increase their visibility.
Workers sent in a weekly report of their accomplishments. They created a large “brag board” for employees to pin “atta-boys” for themselves and co-workers. They took a few minutes at meetings for attendees to tell their greatest accomplishment of the week.
Soon, Kevin had a firm grasp of those employees who were contributing to productivity.
- Influence. Kevin saw the influence of the more confident employees rub off on the apathetic ones. He encouraged team work and mentoring. Open discussions allowed employees to influence decisions made at higher levels.
As the workers saw their increasing influence, they began to feel empowered. Kevin felt the energy increasing week by week. Workers took more responsibility for themselves and their projects.
Friendly competition and rivalry made each team seek to do their best. Kevin cross- pollinated the teams so the best influencers could enrich weaker teams.
“The pay-off for the organization was huge,” Kevin said. “This PVI Model had a major effect on the employee’s productivity, motivation, and staff retention. After just a few months, it feels like a completely different company.”
Kevin commented on the tone, the buzz of the office. Workers came up and thanked him for making such a difference. “They even told me they’d recommended their friends come work here.” Kevin said. “That’s such a contrast to the brain drain I faced when I arrived.”
“Perception, visibility and influence just make the company run better— on every level,” he concluded.
What parts of your company culture affect your productivity? What makes your employees most productive?
“There is no[thing] better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” ~Malcolm X~
When Stacy started work, she found it exciting and rewarding. She felt she was moving up and making a difference. But lately, when she walks in the door at work she feels drained and unenthusiastic.
A few weeks ago, Stacy decided to face this frustration. What was going on at work that created a feeling of DE-motivation? What was causing her to be less satisfied with her job and less willing to dig in and get the work done?
She decided to list her concerns and then figure out what to do about it. At the end of the week, Stacy’s list of demotivators at work looked like this:
- Micromanagement. When she first started work, she needed some extra help. But now that she was confident in her work, the micromanaging seemed interfering. It made her feel like the boss didn’t trust her.
Solution: Before a project starts, Stacy will talk to the boss about the expected standards and the basic approach. She’ll understand the guiding principles the boss wants to see in the job.
Stacy knows her boss is a worrier and stresses. So she decides to really work on building trust with excellent work. Also, she’ll try to control the conversation by initiating frequent progress reports to help him see that the work is progressing smoothly. Be detailed and specific. If she has questions, she’ll ask for clarification quickly.
- Slow Progress. Stacy had moved from a small company to a larger one. There are so many more layers of management here that it seems to take forever for decisions to be made. She’s suggested some real cost saving initiatives… but nothing seems to happen.
Solution: Stacy decides to more closely align her goals with the company goals. She decides to talk with her boss about what is most important in the company’s eyes for her to accomplish. Perhaps what she thinks is important isn’t exactly on target.She also decides to focus on what she can control and do excellent work there, while she waits for progress on some of her ideas.
- Rewarding poor performance. Stacy still smarted from a slight from last week. She’d worked overtime on a project why Ernie had been on vacation. Yet in the meeting where the project was presented, Ernie got the praise. Talk about a demotivator!
Solution: Stacy decided to make sure she was the presenter on projects she had major input on. She would prepare comments and speak up more at meetings to make sure people were aware of her contribution. If necessary, she would schedule face-time with the boss on a regular basis to keep him informed on her work.
- No connection with co-workers. Stacy had been close to her co-workers at her last job. Here, she felt a bit excluded. She really didn’t have any good friends at work. In fact, she didn’t know much about them at all.
Solution: Stacy decided she needed to reach out and connect on a more personal level. She needed to get to know about her co-workers—their families, hobbies, and interests. She decided to start inviting them out to lunch one-on-one and showing interested in them as a person and not just as a co-worker.
Stacy was surprised to find four things that led to her demotivation at work. But once she made a game plan, she felt excitement come back into her day. Now she had control and could make her plan work. And it wasn’t a surprise to her that after a few more weeks, she had friends among her coworkers, her boss was micromanaging less, and she felt like her performance was accurately recognized. As for the layer of management that made progress slow? She discovered a mentor could also help cut through some of the red tape!
If you have a motivation problem at work executive coach Joel Garfinkle can work with you to find solutions.
Do you ever feel burned out or demotivated? What causes your demotivation? And what have you done about it?
“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
Simon wanted to have an extremely productive upcoming year. He reached out for executive coaching so he could take the necessary steps to help him improve his work performance. With advanced planning, he knew he would be prepared to start the New Year with a significant advantage.
This is the plan that I completed with Simon and other clients over the years.
STEP 1 – CLOSE OUT THE OLD YEAR. Close out the year in an effective way so you are ready to charge forward in the New Year.
1. Wrap up loose ends. Close out those small nagging projects you’ve been meaning to do. Make the phone calls, answer those emails, and turn in expense reports. Essentially you want to clear out dated projects so you can start fresh.
2. Organize your work area. Clean up your desk, put away old papers, toss dated files and generally straighten your physical area. Then you’ll come back to a clean organized office for less stress.
3. List your accomplishments for the year. Take the time to review your accomplishments. Quantify all that you can. How did it benefit the company? What value have you brought? Keep this in a file for your next review.
4. Keep in contact. Before you leave for vacation turn on voice mail and email autoresponders with a message you are away. Make sure the office has a contact for you in case of urgent matters. You don’t want to return from vacation to unpleasant surprises.
5. Check employee benefits. Businesses often have changes to their employee benefits that happen with the changing year. Take a look. Do they affect you? Or have your circumstances changed and you need to update beneficiaries, withholding amounts, or providers?
STEP 2 – TAKE A YEAR-END BREAK. Be sure to take a well-deserved year end break. This is a time for relaxation and renewal. You will return to work more vitalized and energized than if you just keep on working without a break.
6. Unplug. Disconnecting from typical social media and technology gives your brain a chance to recharge. It calls on new neuron paths and creates new ways of thinking. When you return to work, your performance will improve.
7. Connect with family and friends. Personal interaction is another way to recharge your life. Pick up hobbies and activities. Have fun. Enjoy.
8. Strengthen your network. The holidays are a great time to send greetings to those you want to keep in your network.
9. Gratitude. Life feels fuller and more enjoyable when we have gratitude. Take time to thank others and express appreciation. Be grateful for what you have.
10. Reflect on your personal and professional life. What changes do you want to make to have a more fulfilling life?
STEP 3 – PREPARE FOR A FRESH START. As you start the new year you will be prepared for a fresh start. Think of it as a new beginning. The old is behind you and the New Year is a blank page for you to write on. Jump in with enthusiasm.
11. Goal Set. Take stock of where you are and where you want to go. Are there projects or tasks you want to be a part of? Do you want to join a class or professional association? What steps do you need to take to get there? Write down the process and calendar it.
12. Update LinkedIn profile. Review it for needed changes. Use your goals to focus the content and attract the connections that will help you achieve them.
13. Organize your priorities. What is most important? Why? How will you keep that in focus? Learn how to use your time in the most productive way possible.
14. Choose your attitude. Make the New Year one of optimism, gratitude, focus, energy. Use this to create a brand and an expectation that you will produce great work.
15. Focus on the positive. Look at each negative with “What can I learn from this that will make me sharper, stronger, more resilient?” Don’t drag others down, lift them.
16. Capture your accomplishments. Going forward, track your successes. Make an email folder to hold records of your accomplishments. Quantify them and remember how they added value to the company.
When you apply these 16 principles, you’ll find that you naturally improve your work performance. You’re focused, organized, refreshed and connected. You know where you’ve been and where you want to go. Get set for a rewarding new year!
Need help rejuvenating, organizing, or planning for your future? An executive coach can cut through the fog to clear answers.
What have you done to launch the next year ready to increase your performance? How effective do you think these tips will be for you?
“Sometimes “No” is the kindest word.”
~ Vironika Tugaleva ~
Ginger feels as though she is drowning in a tsunami. Her inbox is piled high with projects, some of which are way past due. Her email is full of unanswered questions and her text message “ding” is ringing in her ears about every 60 seconds. If she doesn’t do something soon, her work life is going to spin completely out of control. Not to mention she’s losing sleep and shortchanging personal relationships, just to keep her head above water.
Since she’s already heavily involved in market research, Ginger decides to use her extraordinary research skills to come up with a plan for stopping the impending disaster. After scanning a number of relevant books and articles, Ginger comes up with a four-point plan for minimizing her stress overload. Primarily, she realizes that she needs to start saying “no,” a lot.
Step 1: Find out why
Step 2: Find a new pattern
Step 3: Find the “off” button
Step 4: Find support
Ginger figures that 30 days is time enough to get her new plan into place. Just deciding to take action has already made her feel less stressed.
1. Find out why. Ginger’s research introduces her to a new acronym—FOMO. In this day of information overload, lots of people suffer from this condition: Fear Of Missing Out. What if you say no to your boss when he asks you to resolve the next department crisis? He’ll think less of you, he’ll never ask you for help again. You won’t get promoted, and ultimately you’ll be laid off. That’s exactly what FOMO will do to you. What if you don’t read and answer every email the minute it comes in? You’ll soon be ignored by your colleagues and you might miss out on an important new assignment you’ve been craving. Getting rid of FOMO is the first step toward work balance.
2. Find a new pattern. We are all, to one extent or another, people-pleasers. We want our coworkers to like us, not to mention our bosses. We want to be seen as team players, major contributors. The old adage, “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” gets a lot of us trapped on an endless treadmill of tasks and projects, some of which may be virtually meaningless when it comes to career advancement. So the new pattern goes like this: next time someone asks you to take on a new project or step into an emergency situation, you take a step back. Ask why. Get more information about the situation. Take time to think it over and see if it fits your own agenda, goals, and responsibilities. Then make the person who asked feel good about hearing your “no.” We are all too afraid of disappointing someone. The truth is, they will move on. A simple, “I’d love to say yes, Randy, but if I do, I’ll shortchange the projects I’m already working on. You wouldn’t want me to do that to you, and I don’t want to do it to anyone else either. I can’t give you my best right now, but ask me another time, and let’s see if we can get to a yes.” This lets the other person know that you’re doing him or her a favor by not taking on something you can’t do well. And next time might be different.
3. Find the “off” button. This is where technology becomes your friend. Turn off the signals that tell you every time an email lands in your inbox, or a text message arrives on your cell phone. Check these on a regular basis, of course, but don’t put yourself at their mercy. Program your email to sort your incoming messages—important clients in one folder, your boss in another. You might even go so far as to get two email addresses—one for people who need to reach you immediately, and one for everybody else.
4. Find support. It’s a good idea to talk over your strategy with your boss, of course. Take the approach that you know you’re doing less than your best and you want to create space to improve your performance. Depending on your situation, you might ask to be dropped from certain projects or committees, or you might ask for short term help to clear out the backlog.
Ginger was lucky that she recognized her problem before it caused her serious trouble. Long term work and communications overload can damage your health, your relationships, and your work performance. Ginger took steps to resolve her situation, and over time she learned to say “no” in a way that made others feel she was doing them a favor.
Are you facing a personal tsunami at work? Email Joel to get tips on how to avoid the oncoming disaster.
Talkback: What’s your strategy for saying no? Have you successfully conquered FOMO? Share your experience here.
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