4 actions you can take to handle work stress
Wrest back control of your day and that work stress
Do you find that your days and weeks are a blur? Does it astonish you that we are already a third of the way into the 3rd month of the year?
Do you find that you are wiped out over the week, barely enough time to think about what you've been up to? It is just one thing after the other before you plop down on the couch and watch some TV to take your mind off things. And then keep repeating it until the weekend.
Work never ends. Constantly on calls. Emails at all times of the day. Most of them seem urgent.
This is the state I see a lot of my students in, and a few of my colleagues as well. And of course, I've been there. And I am still thrown there occasionally if I am not paying attention.
The thing is, if you allow it to continue this way, you are heading to burnout.
If you are constantly looking forward to the weekend, if your stress levels are through the roof, if you are constantly on the phone or checking emails or responding to people or thinking about work - ruh roh!
Not only is all this stress harmful, but it also makes you less productive at work. Yes, you might be doing more work but are you doing better work?
Well, at least in my case, I was not doing high-quality work that only I was capable of.
So, I came up with a few rules for myself, which I think you can adapt to your own context.
Stop working at 5.30 pm
My day starts rather early. I am done with 3 hours of coaching by the time most of you are having your morning coffee. So, even with a mid-day break of lunch and a nap plus some time to unwind, I've found that I am not very productive in the evening. And when I am forced to be, I find that the next morning tends to be rather sluggish.
So, a hard stop at 5.30 pm is a rule that I set for myself. Of course, there are a few days when I might spend a few minutes extra. But the idea is not to schedule work past 5.30 pm.
Minimal phone and zero-WhatsApp over the weekend
A lot of my students want to talk to me and they are only free over the weekends. But then, I get only the weekend to do a few things that are not possible during the week - like hang out with my friends or stay up late and what-not. So, I don't take any calls over the weekend. And WhatsApp is the messaging medium of choice for the community, and I stay away from it as well.
That might seem a bit over the top but to be able to switch off from work and all its related things, I find that a clean break like this is required.
Emails over short windows
I used to have my inbox open all the time. While switching between tasks, I'd quickly check my email. When I open my phone to do something else, I check to see if there's any urgent email to respond to.
Again, this meant that my mind was constantly distracted and occupied by work. This might sound like a good thing but when it comes time to switch off, our habits lead us astray. You are gonna be opening that email or responding to WhatsApp before you realise it.
So, I have 2-3 windows during the day when I chip away at my email. And right before I close my laptop down around 5.30 pm is my last check.
25-on-5-off aka the Pomodoro method
If you are like me, you are constantly opening up a browser window and dicking around on the internet. Any time you are stuck with a problem, I have this terrible habit of doing this. Without my knowledge, I'd be re-reading football news that I've already gone through twice. All because I am stuck with a problem.
Instead, shut up and be stuck with the problem.
I use the Pomodoro method for this. I use a timer that runs for 25 minutes. Until that beeper goes, I shut up and plod away at the one task in front of me. If it is "answer emails", that's what it is. If it is "come up with a new fancy diet", that's what it is. Doesn't matter how easy or hard the task is. The focus is to stay on the task.
When the beeper goes, I put a 5-minute timer and dick around on the interwebs. And then, repeat!
What do you do to take care of your work stress?
How do you manage to find balance in your day?
And how do you manage to stay truly productive? And not work silly hours at the same time?
I'd love to hear your process.