Managing Stress & Achieving More at Work

It’s 8:30, Monday morning and within minutes of opening my emails, I’m stressed. Stressed about deadlines, about emails which require more than five minutes of work and about the looming pile of work of which I have no clue where to start.

Sound familiar? This isn’t me all the time, I’ll admit. My job isn’t highly stressful in comparison to others but there are days where things go wrong. That should read days where everything goes wrong. If my brain isn’t in full concentration mode, I start making silly mistakes and the harsher I am on myself, the more it seems to happen.

I feel like I’m about to explode and hurriedly reply to all my unread emails in an effort to look productive when in fact these aren’t the urgent tasks that need doing, these are the easy tasks.

I’ve worked in many office environments now to know that avoiding stress is virtually impossible. You’ll sometimes wonder if all these tasks you’ve been given are really even part of your job description. Are they there to test you and make your life harder? Sometimes it sure feels like it but if we try to minimise our stress levels, these tasks will seem more manageable.

Slow down

This is something I really struggle with, in all aspects of life. I race through life desperate to get to the next thing. I’ve no idea why, I just don’t feel the need to take the time to do absolutely nothing. For me, every task should be done as soon as possible. It’s taken me a while to realise that not everything has to be done straight away and that slowing down has its benefits.

Think things through before plunging into a project. Make a plan and think logically about how you’re going to complete the task. It isn’t that simple for me. If you have an overactive imagination like I do then turn off any distractions so that you focus on one task. Start well ahead of the deadline so there’s no need to rush and make sure you have everything you need in front of you to complete the task.

Write everything down

I find a lot of my stress comes from not remembering everything because my notes are too vague or I just thought I was clever enough to remember it without writing it down.

I constantly write lists at work and add deadlines so I can prioritise those important tasks and get the urgent ones out of the way. This should hopefully eliminate the onset of stress.

Also, if something isn’t clear; just ask. I’ve gotten myself so stressed before because I just muddled on through a task without asking what it was I was meant to be doing. I didn’t want it to appear as though I didn’t understand or that I didn’t listen properly.

Asking doesn’t make you look incompetent, it’s part of the job!

Save the good stuff for the afternoon

Does anyone else find themselves lagging at about 2:30- 3:00 if not before? That after lunch period can be really long and I find myself itching to look at my phone or catch up on my favourite blogs.

I always dedicate time in my calendar in the afternoon to bigger projects, especially research based ones that I can really focus on. I know this will probably only apply to people who work in an office but for others who find it hard to focus in the afternoon, make time for a short break. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk if your job allows or even just have a five minute phone break if that’s what it takes to help you re focus on what you should be doing.

Don’t get sucked into a massive online shopping haul or holiday research though. (Guilty!) Breaks shouldn’t be too taxing or require much effort. They’re an escape from concentrating.

How my day would look with no stress:

  • Get to work and make myself (and usually several other colleagues) a cup of tea
  • Open my emails and start answering them not moving onto the next one until I have fully completed everything that email asks me to do. Only flag email if unsure – best case scenario: leave it unread so it doesn’t get missed
  • Attend a meeting and take clear, thorough notes, asking others when unclear on what’s being said
  • Write up notes straight after the meeting, making them as in depth as possible
  • Take a break and have a snack, drink water – say no to another tea
  • Start on a more difficult task as I work better mid-morning
  • Take an hour for lunch – half an hour eating/ socialising, half an hour walking round the block
  • Process invoices/ do any easy tasks such as emails
  • When it hits 2:30-3:00, start on the research task which I can focus on for a while
  • Make another tea at 3:30ish and eat cake (most probably)
  • Switch back to some easy admin tasks such as updating the database, organising my calendar and answering emails

That is how my day should look but normally there’s a fair bit of stress involved leading to anxious procrastination and achieving less than I should. Stress can’t always be avoided but by being positive from the outset, I hope to make a few small changes and start feeling like I’ve achieved my best nearly every day – especially those working from home days!

What do you do to feel less stressed at work?

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