The cause of workplace stress – lack of control
Nowadays, managers face a tough situation. It is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain high productivity in the long-term as many organizations rely on smaller teams to get the same work done and meetings and conference calls take inordinate amount of time. In addition, the nature of today’s business is characterized by the need to be highly flexible and adaptable to the rapidly changing business environment. As a result, many projects and unforeseen tasks can appear with short notice and require instant action. This can lead to stress and pressure, which in turn negatively impacts productivity.
However, the cause of stress is very often situated in lack of control over the situation. You can feel overwhelmed because you don’t know which tasks to undertake and you have the impression that the external environment controls you. However, this doesn’t have to be the case and a conscious effort taken in order to deal with how you organize new projects and manage routine tasks can make a significant difference.
Organize your work to decrease pressure in the long-term
We all become overwhelmed sometimes – when the deadlines for big projects are fast approaching or a certain situation requires us to work harder than usual for short period of time. On the other hand, if you feel overwhelmed regularly, the problem might be in the way you organize your work in the long-term.
The main issue in managing workplace stress that burdens your shoulders is to ensure that you know how to approach your main duties, understand how to prioritize important projects and learn how to effectively juggle different responsibilities at the same time.
4 strategies to organize your work and tackle workplace stress:
1. Tackle your ‘monsters’ and ‘yap dogs’
Most teams are only responsible for a 3-4 tasks in an organization; I call these tasks ‘monsters’ – the overriding priorities that need to be executed well, otherwise they might affect the productivity and performance of the whole department. As a manager, keep a list of your team’s ‘monsters’ and ensure that you organize your work around them in your day.The next step is to establish a list of your other, smaller tasks. You will likely find that a great percentage of those tasks are unrelated to your ‘monsters’; for instance, responding to customers’ complaints when you have to focus on the ‘monster’ of designing a new webpage. I call these tasks the ‘yap dogs’, the activities that you perform daily or weekly in the long-term but are not too productive at doing.
Identify three ‘yap dogs’ and make a decision to remove them from your working schedule or delegate to other employees in the company. It might seem difficult to simply drop these tasks, but you will probably have more ‘yap dogs’ than you expect. If you gradually remove them from your schedule, it will be easier to organize your work and relieve stress rooting from having endless responsibilities.
2. Learn to say ‘no’
You can become more organized if you learn how to say ‘no’ to extra tasks that might fill up your schedule and increase your stress. When you are asked to take on a new project or task, it is of utmost importance to weigh the request against your ‘monsters’, those unmovable priorities. Organized managers analyse whether the new task is related to their priorities and evaluate if it can be assigned to someone else. Even though sometimes certain additional tasks might seem straightforward, they can accumulate in the long-term and increase your stress levels.
3. Be ultra-disciplined about meetings
A study of executives from Marakon Associates found that less than 5% of survey respondents said their company had a rigorous and disciplined process for focusing management’s time on the most important issues. More than 65% of meetings are not even called for the purpose of making a decision. As a result, it is of great importance to make the meetings productive so you can organize your work and discuss relevant issues with colleagues and also avoid wasting your time.
How to make your management meetings more productive:
- Have an agenda for every meeting, including the purpose and expected outcome.
- Start and end on time. You will find that if you make a habit if starting on time, in the long-term people will find a way to show up on time.
- Distribute reading materials at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. Summarize the information from these materials at the start of the meeting.
- Separate strategy discussions from operational discussions. These topics require different preparation and different mindsets.
- Recap agreements before the meeting ends. If this is an ongoing project status meeting, spend the first five minutes reviewing the agreements from the last meeting.
4. Support your subordinates
If you are a manager who is feeling overwhelmed and struggling to organize your work, there is a high likelihood that your team is in the same situation. If you can help people working with you to be more organized in the long-term, they will feel less stressed and also be more efficient in their work.
Firstly, encourage your subordinates to work on their strengths. It has been found that people who work on their strengths every day are more productive, more engaged and perform at a higher level. Secondly, evaluate and consider which tasks could be shifted to make a better use of resources. Ask your team members about the tasks which are slowing them down and analyse how you could reorganize them. Sometimes, switching even the basic tasks between people according to their strengths can make a visible change in productivity.
Consistency is the key
In the end, it is very important that you regularly organize your work so it becomes a habit. If you are consistent in regularly reviewing your ‘monsters’ and ‘yap dogs’, you make the most out of every meeting and you work with your subordinates, your work will gain purpose and long-term focus. Subsequently, you will feel in control of your situation at work in the long-term and the stress will likely drastically reduce.
Do you have any other ways to organize and manage your workload? Let me know in the comments!