For the first time the World Health Organization has listed burnout as a occupational phenomenon. 95% of HR Leaders say its sabotaging workplace retention.
But how do you balance the stress and never ending to do list? Here are my 5 things to get more done with less stress.
In today’s work and social environment, we live a very binary existence – not much better than computers. We are either 0 or 1, black or white, oil or water. Success is self-actualized and an extremely high bar to hit. We must get-to-the-peak-of-the-mountain and perfect-is-the-only-best-life. It's a version of this or nothing, no in-between.
Recently, as a student in a pottery class, I was tidying up and found one of my classmates thrown out beautiful pot – unpainted. She was trying an asymmetrical design for the first time, generally being a symmetrical potter. Not seeing the desired symmetrical “perfect” she historically accomplished, the piece looked not even good enough to paint and finish, becoming trash. It got me thinking – it didn’t fit into a symmetrical assumed form, but was it trash? Or was it something better than anything else, but she couldn’t see past what she deemed perfection?
In my London agency days and my consulting work today, I see clients daily suffering from decision paralysis. A paralyzing fear of making the wrong decision or not reaching Rome tonight. To be fair, today many are entrepreneurs I am helping to grow their businesses. A bad decision could put them out of business. The fear is real. And at the same time many aspects of lesser risk, gets treated with the same weight.
I find we are all so challenged in knowing the difference between a high, medium and low risk opportunity. Fear has got the better of us and we are deep-down in our amygdala rather than the logical and knowledgeable cortex of our brain. Perfection comes in many forms: numeric results, feelings of how “good” the outcome is or could be, something physical (you, the document formatting, the location…) and so on. The list is endless. It’s time to take the leap and let some of the fear go, make the decision and feel confident in your decision. Build out that muscle of risk taking and understand and feeling your boundaries rather than avoiding them.
5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO GET MORE DONE WITH LESS STRESS:
1 | STOP AND TAKE A STEP BACK.
We get stuck in the weeds of the day-to-day. It’s impossible to really see where we are going when you cannot see the big picture. Determine the overarching goal(s). What are you really trying to accomplish? Increase revenue? Awareness? Business purpose or place in the market?
Write it down – put it/them somewhere you cannot miss it. Your sink mirror, front door, the coffee machine, corner of your screen, screen saver on your phone. Get creative and move it around every month or so as not to desensitize yourself.When you are feeling overwhelmed go back and read this goal. Ask yourself “am I caught up in the weeds? Do I need to reset here?” Keep forcing yourself to do this – or a variation that works for you – until it becomes second nature.
2 | SOMETIMES DONE IS BETTER THAN NOT DONE.
Would you buy a Bentley before you have even driven a car? No, you’re not a Kardashian. We need to get your headspace out of the automatic desire to get to the end goal immediately. This is draining valuable and limited resources.
Your time, energy and brain power are being diminished by these unrealistic expectations.Take the first step. Create the minimal viable product (MVP). Test your market/theory before you invest your precious time and energy – you cannot get that back. When your MVP is working and driving results, you can fix it up to run automatically.
3 | TASKS EQUAL GOALS
Our day to day without conscious evaluation leads us to tasks that are not actually contributing to our overall goals. Every goal you reach is an accumulation of small tasks over a period of time. Cut out the fat that is not getting you where you need to be.
After a good amount of self-talk around steps 1 and 2, look at your to-do list. Adjust to ensure you are focused on achieving the end goal and not holding yourself back with unhelpful but “nice” tasks. Ensure that you are not investing too much of your time and effort on something you have not MVP’ed yet. Not everything needs to be done today. Finding what good looks like WITH the desired results is dependent on you having a good handle on this.
4 | TAKE A BREAK.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Feel you are moving slower than you could be? These are blaringly obvious indication that you are tapped out and need to recharge. Did you know that the average person can only focus on a task 30-90 minutes?
Getting away will improve your productivity and quality of your work. Looking for some ideas – great article on this here. Fight your impulse to keep at it until it is done and walk away from it for 5-10 min. Even changing lanes on what you are working on can do the trick.
5 | THIS IS A MOUNTAIN NOT A ZIP-LINE.
Feelings of being overwhelmed is tied to focusing on where you need to get rather than soli the next step on your journey. A growing business is endlessly hard to manage, you cannot keep everything aligned and tidy all the time with limited resources and structure that come with this stage. The mess makes us uneasy - leading to feeling overwhelmed.
There is a lot to be said for the adage “Rome was not built in a day”. More often than not I am talking to an entrepreneur that is chastising themselves for not building a successful profitable business over night. Or they didn’t finish what would be an extremely productive person’s year of work in just one month.
Find your saying or object – mountain, Rome, Beyoncé etc. No judgement here, no one even needs to know what it is it just needs to work for you. Use it to remind yourself that each element of progress adds to the end result. Visualize each element of your business, task or job as one of those. And every little thing you do is getting you one step closer to your end result. No, everything will not be done by dinner tonight. Let it go.
I sincerely hope you this has inspired you and will help you ramp up your working strategy. Read more about where stress leads to, burnout, here. Interested in listening to a psychologist talk about our decision-making abilities? I recommend listening to “Decide Already” from the podcast Hidden Brain. It outlines, with empirical evidence, that we are terrible at predicting outcomes and that we see things as much more onerous that they truly are (like filing your taxes) Listening to it gave me a lot to think about and has helped bring me back to earth during those overwhelming ziplines of thought.