Last week I was fortunate enough to have a few days break after a conference on Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast. We caught up with family and friends we hadn’t seen for some time and I’m returning to work today feeling very relaxed.
Then I looked at my diary and I realised that another month is almost gone. I have so many things to do before the end of the month and my stress levels start to rise just a little, before I even have to handle anything unexpected, difficult or challenging…
It got me thinking. Stress is such a part of any leadership or management role it’s easy to forget what a stress free life can be like. But the question is, is that a bad thing?
There’s no doubt that a bit of stress helps us to function at a higher, or more intense level and therefore get more done than usual. I certainly got more done the day before I left for my conference and short break than I would have, if I had not been under the pressure of a deadline.
Planes just don’t wait for us to finish one more thing, do they?
And there probably wouldn’t be any need for the management or leadership role in organisations, if there weren’t the sort of problems and challenges that can lead to stress.
But there’s also no doubt that higher and higher stress levels can be unhealthy, unsustainable and unproductive – and that’s what too many leaders and managers struggle with, every day at work.
Being told day in and day out to do more and more with less and less is undoubtedly stressful.
If that’s your reality, I know it won’t help to tell you to “relax and take a holiday”. Much as you might want to and know you really should, I know it’s not always possible – especially when you are most stressed.
Yet you and I both know that you owe it to the people on your team to know how to manage your stress levels so you are productive rather than stressed out of control. If you allow your stress to get out of control you’ll begin to miss deadlines, forget critical things and struggle to cope with anything unexpected. In fact your productivity will drop.
So what can you do? Well, there is plenty you can do to effectively manage your stress levels and help your team members to do the same. Here are three quick tips to help:
* First, make sure you are quite clear on whether and why tasks really need to be done. As we are asked to do new things, it is important to constantly take the time to check whether the old tasks we are used to doing really still need to be done. Sometimes we cling to old tasks (maybe we are confident doing them or just enjoy doing them) even though they are no longer really required. If a task no longer needs to be done, or it can be done annually instead of monthly for example, that can free up significant amounts of time and reduce stress on everyone.
* Second, even if you can’t take a whole week’s break, you can take a brief break to do something you enjoy. Walk around the block to clear your head. Take 20 minutes to listen to some music you enjoy. Enrol in a weekly exercise or stretch class. Take up painting or gardening. Borrow a neighbor’s dog and take it for a walk. In other words, doing something different for a short time can work magic in reducing your stress levels.
* Third, make sure you really understand what stress is, how the different types of stress impact on performance and how to manage it yourself and for your people. Keep yourself motivated and don’t make doing tasks more stressful by procrastinating. These resources will help you to manage your stress and be more productive: Less Stress and Better Productivity
Leaders who understand and work well with stress make better leaders. That link for some really helpful resources is:
Check them out now.