Do This, Do That: How to Handle Stress and Be Productive Under Pressure

Posted by Guthrie-Jensen Consultants

Stress can kill you.

This isn’t an exaggeration; it happens, especially in Japan where one in five employees are at risk of death from overwork. In fact, the Japanese even have a word for it: karoshi, which literally means “death from overwork.”

In the Philippines, there have been cases of death by overwork in the past, but it’s not as widespread compared to Japan (fortunately). That doesn’t make work-related stress a less serious concern, considering that 8 million Filipinos are overworked in 2015.

Constant stress often exhibits in the form of pressure from strict deadlines, micromanaging bosses, office politics, extended work hours, and other challenges that hinder how you perform your job. This can worsen and become chronic stress, which can lead to heart problems, high blood pressure, and proneness to diseases and chronic infections. When you experience this, chances are you tend to eat and sleep poorly, ignore your personal relationships, resort to substance abuse, and skip stimulating activities. Ultimately, it’s not a sustainable way to live.

Read on to learn how to manage stress at work in a healthy and productive way.

Tip #1: Redefine how you see time

A close up of a clock
Source: Unsplash

Francesco Cirillo, a famed author known for formulating the Pomodoro technique, says people have two interconnected relationships with time: “becoming” and “the succession of events.”

Becoming is a more abstract and qualitative aspect of time. It’s when you think of what you have to do at a specific time of the day, e.g. “I need to submit the sales report at 4 PM!”

Meanwhile, the succession of events refers to the natural aspect of time, a relaxed rhythm, as experienced by children. It’s when you think of what you have to do after you finish your current task. For example, after you get to work, you’ll plan your daily tasks, then you’ll start working on the sales report, and so on…

“Becoming” is the one that instigates anxiety. People who plan their day against the flow of time often feels defeated as time slips away, resulting in unproductive hours. To beat anxiety, it’s best to focus on the task at hand instead of counting the seconds.

This is where the Pomodoro technique helps with stress management—especially when you’re dealing with tight deadlines. You break your workday into 25-minute chunks (where you concentrate on the time you have) and separate it with 5-minute breaks. After four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break (15-20 minutes). The technique instills a sense of urgency rather than make you feel as if you have the whole day to finish a task. This results in enhanced work productivity.

Tip #2: Reassess what’s really urgent/important

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” — Dwight Eisenhower

The 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, exhibited an incredible aptitude for sustaining his productivity throughout his career. He’s also known for the most famous method for time management and categorizing priorities, the Eisenhower Matrix.

It’s a productivity technique that can also double as a stress management technique to help you streamline your daily workflow. The matrix is a straightforward decision-making method that encourages you to organize your tasks efficiently.

Here is a short video that illustrates Eisenhower’s Box for your better understanding.

The objective is to disseminate non-urgent tasks to allow you to take on important and urgent tasks that require your immediate attention. The technique helps you simplify and establish a clear framework for breaking down your tasks and making decisions. It’s an efficient way of managing chaos effectively and methodically. If possible, reach out to responsible persons to talk about more realistic deadlines.

Tip #3: Take a quick breather

There’s a reason why the Pomodoro technique requires small 5-minute breaks in between highly-focused 25-minute sessions: balance.

You need to pause, step away from your desk, and take a quick rest every now and again to avert exhaustion and rewire your brain. Ever experienced getting perplexed by a task, try to get on with it, only to find yourself stuck? These are the instances where you badly need to step away to refuel your energy. It’s an excellent way to improve your quality of work and productivity, especially when you’re under pressure.

If your job lets you sit in front of a computer screen eight hours per day, standing up and taking a short walk outside helps stimulate the blood flow in your body. It relieves discomfort in your wrists, back, and other parts of your body.

Your productivity, mental clarity, creative flow, and emotional well-being rests on the number of breaks you take within the day. So, take a break. And once you return to your station, you’ll realize that your overwhelming task is now more manageable compared to when you left it, thanks to a brand new perspective.

Tip #4: Share the pressure and ask support from colleagues

It’s human nature to communicate and share what we feel with others. Communicating the pressure you feel with colleagues combats anxiety and stress. Letting it all out (in a calm and professional manner, of course) helps alleviate stress. As you share your concerns, it also allows you to analyze and perceive the situation from a different angle.

Moreover, the person you share this with can give you their feedback–thoughts that might not have crossed your mind and which you might need. It’s important to share your work woes with people you trust the most, your close colleagues, who can also help you deal with it, whether through advice or assistance in some of your tasks.

Don’t take the heat all on your own. If you’re under extreme pressure about a project, it helps to open up to someone to make you feel less beaten down and alone. If possible, raise the issue to the higher-ups to negotiate a more realistic deadline.

Further reading: 5 Communication Techniques to Gain Control of the Conversation

Regain control

Not all stress is bad; it’s part of our lives. The key is to develop healthy coping mechanisms and techniques, and not fall prey to chronic stress. To be successful, you don’t have to burn the midnight oil all the time. Instead, it’s about having the right tools and mindset to skillfully ride the stress.

Are you currently dealing with demanding tasks and feeling under extreme pressure? Join our public seminar, Managing Chaos: Increasing Productivity and Managing Efficiently Under Pressure. We’ll help you bounce back from stress and regain your optimal state!

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