Four Tools For A Healthier Relationship With Stress

A famous quote from Mark Twain says, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

While I fully support creating a career that is enjoyable and provides deep fulfillment, even the most rewarding jobs are accompanied by some level of stress. For me, the greater question is: How can you incorporate successful stress management techniques, thereby maximizing business and personal performance and fulfillment?

How To Recognize Your Stressors

In any discussion, clarifying the premise or foundation on which it is built is necessary for clear communication. The foundation for this discussion is that stress is not negative—rather, it’s necessary to optimize success. In a 2015 interview, Daniela Kaufer, an associate professor at UC Berkeley who studies the biology of stress, said, “The prevailing idea in our culture is that stress is bad. People complain about being stressed out. But we are learning that moderate amounts of stress have powerful benefits.”

Building on the foundation that stress, when used appropriately, is beneficial, let’s take a deeper dive into what stressors are for you. Things that are joyful for you can never cause stress; only things that you don’t want to do, but have to do, can.

So start by creating a two-part list. First, write down everything in your business that you like to do. What things are truly fun? What aspects do you enjoy?

For part two, look at the activities that are required in order to generate money, run the business, complete a project, etc. What are the things that have to be done? More importantly, what are the things that have to be done that are not fun? What activities do you dread?

Evaluate both parts of your list. The things that are joyful for you show you what to add more of. The things you do not wish to do but are necessary are your potential stressors.

Four Tips To Control Your Stressors

Recognizing your potential stressors allows you to be in control of them rather than at their mercy. Here are my top four tips to assist you:

1. Delegation

For every required action that is not fun for you, see if you can delegate it. Is it something you must do personally, or can you ask someone for help?

Business leaders often refuse to delegate or ask for help because they do not wish to give up control; alternately, their budget may not allow them to pay someone else. Be willing to pay. The more you delegate, the more you free up your time to do the things that are fun for you. And remember, the things that are fun for you can never stress you.

2. The ‘Get Stuff Done’ Mode

Self-manipulation can be a useful tool. For the things that you have to do personally, learn to manipulate yourself. My favorite tool of self-manipulation regarding the things I do not wish to do is to put myself in what I call “Get Stuff Done” mode. In this mode, I stop looking for ways to avoid the task, I stop being annoyed, I stop asking why and simply go into autopilot, thinking “I am going to get this done as efficiently as possible.”

One way to achieve this is to dedicate two hours a day, two days per week to action your “have-tos.” Turn off your phone. Don’t plan anything else. Don’t allow distractions. Be very deliberate and dedicated that this time is set aside to get things handled. Motivate yourself by saying, “This is only two hours. These necessary actions don’t bother or stress me. I am choosing to do these things quickly, intentionally and without distraction so that I can get back to doing the things I love.”

You can also implement a reward system. Perhaps you decide that when you complete the undesirable tasks, you will take your wife out to a beautiful dinner or buy that pair of skis you’ve been wanting or sip your favorite whiskey. This is self-manipulation at its finest. Use it to your advantage.

3. Don’t Allow Tasks To Accumulate

A steadily growing to-do list is one of the greatest causes of negative stress. Most tasks can be done in just a few minutes. The things that require more time—research, education, issues that require a delicate touch—those are the things you wait for the right moment to deal with. Everything else, do right away.

The Golden Rule of business management is this: The more annoying something appears to be, the quicker you should get it done. The phone call, the text, the email, the conversation, the things you would rather avoid, handle now. Annoyance with people and situations creates stress. It keeps your mind busy and distracts you, so rather than putting off tedious tasks, annoying people or difficult conversations, deal with them now.

4. Communication Is Key

If you have a lot going on and you know you will be unavailable, let people know. If you are away on holiday or dealing with a difficult situation, simply communicating that information to the people you work with is essential. Communication calms people down. It lets them know that you are on the ball.

When you don’t communicate promptly about unavailability or limited capacity, people freak out and they keep pushing. When you acknowledge that you have received their message, that you are unable to respond for a few hours or days but that things are being taken care of, they are happy. They can relax because they know they are being given attention and that you are aware of what is required. They stop pushing, which allows you to relax, too.

Final Thoughts

Implementing these four tools will allow you to organize your life in such a way that you can dedicate 80-90% of your time to the things that are truly joyful for you, and the remaining 10-20% can never overpower the rest. This is how you lead your business and your life beyond stress.


By for Forbes

Photo by Tim Gouw

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