Tips for Managing Stress and Change at Work
by Susan M. Heathfield
Are you experiencing stress at work? Want to learn more about what causes
stress and the impact of stress on people at work?
These five major suggestions will help you manage the stress you experience
at work. Effective stress management is not easy and stress management takes
time and practice. Developing stress management skills is important for your
overall health and well-being, however.
These five stress management tips are in no particular order. They do not
take in the universe of stress management, but these stress management tips
encompass several of the main stress management challenges you experience at
work. Think about your own situation and your own tendencies in stressful
situations to select your best stress management strategies from the list.
1. Control time allocation and goals.
Set realistic goals and time frames for yourself. Remember the Alice in
Wonderland Syndrome from the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis
Carroll. Alice is walking in a woods. She comes to a fork in the road. Not
knowing which way to go, she asks the Cheshire Cat:
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the cat.
I don't much care where, said Alice.
Then it doesn't matter, said the cat.
— so long as I get somewhere, Alice added as an explanation.
Oh, you're sure to do that, said the Cat, if you only walk long enough.
Do you feel this way some days? Setting realistic goals for your day and
year helps you feel directed and in control. Goals give you a yardstick
against which you can measure every time commitment. And, walking long
enough is a stress producer, not a stress management tool.
Scheduling more than you can handle is a great stressor. Not only are you
stressed trying to handle your commitments, you are stressed just thinking
about them. If you are experiencing overload with some activities, learn to
say, "no." Eliminate any activities which you don't have to do. Carefully
consider any time-based commitment you make.
Use an electronic planner to schedule each goal and activity you commit to
accomplish, not just your appointments. If that report will take two hours
to write, schedule the two hours just as you would a meeting. If reading and
responding to email takes an hour per day, schedule the hour.
2. Reconsider all meetings.
Why hold meetings in the first place? An effective meeting serves an
essential purpose – it is an opportunity to share information and/or to
solve a critical problem. Meetings should only happen when interaction is
required. Meetings can work to your advantage, or they can weaken your
effectiveness at work. If much of your time is spent attending ineffective,
time-wasting meetings, you are limiting your ability to accomplish important
objectives at work.
The Wall Street Journal, quoted a study that estimated American managers
could save 80 percent of the time they currently waste in meetings if they
did two things: start and end meetings on time and follow an agenda.
3. You can't be all things to all people – control your time.
Something has to give. Make time for the most important commitments and take
time to figure out what these are. Time management is a systematic approach
to the time of your life applied consistently. The basis of time management
is the ability to control events. A study was done some years ago that
revealed symphony conductors live the longest of any professionals. Looking
into this longevity, researchers concluded that in no other occupation do
people have such complete control over existing events.
In his book, Time Power, Dr. Charles Hobbes suggests that there are five
categories of events:
a) Events you think you cannot control, and you can't.
b) Events you think you cannot control, but you can.
c) Events you think you can control, but you can't.
d) Events you think you can control, but you don't.
e) Events you think you can control, and you can.
There are two major issues about control:
a) Each of us is really in control and in charge of more events than we
generally like to acknowledge.
b) Some things are uncontrollable. Trying to control uncontrollables is a
key cause of stress and unhappiness.
With the competing demands that exist for your time, you probably feel as if
much of your day is not in your control. Feeling not in control is the enemy
of time management. Feeling not in control is one of the major causes of
stress in our daily lives, too.
4. Make time decisions based on analysis.
Take a look at how you currently divide your time. Do you get the little,
unimportant things completed first because they are easy and their
completion makes you feel good? Or, do you focus your efforts on the things
that will really make a difference for your organization and your life.
Events and activities fall into one of four categories. You need to spend
the majority of your time on items that fall in the last two categories.
a) Not Urgent and Not Important
b) Urgent but Not Important
c) Not Urgent but Important
d) Urgent and Important
5. Manage procrastination.
If you are like most people, you procrastinate for three reasons.
a) You don't know how to do the task,
b) You don't like to do the task, or
c) You feel indecisive about how to approach the task.
Deal with procrastination by breaking the large project into as many small,
manageable, instant tasks as possible. Make a written list of every task.
List the small tasks on your daily, prioritized To Do List. Reward yourself
upon completion. If you do procrastinate, you'll find that the task gets
bigger and bigger and more insurmountable in your own mind. Just start.
These tips for managing stress and change will help you change your actions
and your outlook. Best wishes as you implement these ideas. Live a great
[About the Author: Susan Heathfield is a Human Resources expert. She is a
management and organization development consultant who specializes in human
resources issues and in management development to create forward thinking
workplaces. Susan is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer, and
writer. Susan is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM) and the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). Susan
contributes regularly to professional publications including a book chapter
for ASTD and a recent article in the American Society for Quality's Journal
for Quality and Participation.]
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