In the age of technology where everyone is accessible all of the time, it can be difficult to “turn off” work. We are constantly connected, getting email and Slack messages at all hours of the day and notifications for any new communication. While this increases productivity in many ways, it also increases stress. According to a survey conducted by the American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful. Stress in the workplace has become an epidemic, and we’re all looking for ways to feel more peaceful and focused at work. Many of these solutions are self-care tactics like meditation and taking a walk around the block during our lunch hour. But what happens when those practices aren’t strong enough? Read below for three practices to eliminate stress when self-care isn’t cutting it.
Delegate and Elevate™
Many of us are leaders both at work and home; the demands never stop, and we can feel pulled in all directions by the never-ending list of chores, deadlines and tasks. The key to finding more balance and less stress is to delegate the tasks you don’t like and aren’t good at and use your time only for the things you like and are good at and love and are great at. I use a practice called Delegate and Elevate™, developed by Gino Wickman, to categorize my tasks both at work and home. Simply categorize all of your tasks into these four quadrants: Love/Are Great At, Like/Are Good At, Don’t Like/Happen to Be Good At, and Don’t Like/Not Good At. Once you have a clear visual of where your tasks fall, focus on delegating all of the things you don’t like or love doing.
It can sometimes be difficult to delegate at first, but you’ll often find that the tasks you don’t like are what someone else enjoys. One of my employees loves to research and create spreadsheets. These are some of the last things I would ever want to do, but when I ask her to do them, she is excited. Finding what you can swap with your co-workers will bring you all closer to feeling more fulfillment and less stress. Baird Brightman, PhD and principal of Worklife Strategies, shares valuable insight on delegating: “Define the what and delegate the how. Give the responsibility for accomplishing something to others but let them sort out the best way to go about accomplishing it.” This hands-off approach creates space for others to shine and you to learn a new way of doing things. As long as the task gets completed and you have less stress, who cares what the process is!
Take a Clarity Break™
A common reason many of us are stressed is because we simply have too much going on in our brains. As busy leaders it can be difficult to carve out blank space for thinking, but it’s crucial that you do so in order to have space to innovate and create. I like to say that you need to create space in order to have space to create. I do this by taking a Clarity Break™, also developed by Gino Wickman. A Clarity Break™ is a daily, weekly or monthly time set aside to reflect and focus “on” the business instead of “in” the business. If you’re just starting this practice, begin with 60-90 minutes a week away from the office. Head to a park or coffee shop, sit in front of a legal pad and let the thoughts pour out on paper. As challenging as it may be, work to maintain a “technology free” space to minimize distractions.
It might be difficult to carve out the time at first, but you’ll soon realize that you are getting time back because you have a clearer vision and will be able to execute more effectively. “Just as the brain needs sleep to recharge and store information, you need time off from work to rejuvenate your creative juices and mental capacities,” shares HR Executive Stephen Fussell. Taking Clarity Breaks™ will reduce stress because you’ll confirm that you are on track and all bases are covered. It will also bolster your confidence as a leader and help you identify and address big picture solutions so you can implement them before you miss an opportunity.
Learn to Say No
Having too many commitments also creates stress. As leaders, many of us have trouble saying “no” to things. We want to be helpful and don’t want to pass up an opportunity that may forward us personally or professionally. Every time you say yes to something, however, you’re actually saying yes to much more. Did you say yes to being on that committee? That means also saying yes to multiple meetings, phone calls and to-dos leading up to the big event. Rarely do we pause long enough to consider all these other commitments before saying yes. Next time, when someone asks you to take on a new responsibility or job, don’t be too quick to say yes. Instead, tell them you’ll think about it and need to check your schedule. List out all of the additional things you’d be saying yes to by committing and evaluate if this is aligned with your greater goals. If it’s not, say no.
Author and CEO Camille Preston shares, “We know how to say yes, but we don’t know how to say no, and we often go down a rabbit hole of excuses, especially if it’s something we don’t want to do. If you’ve thought about the invitation and the answer is no, decline gracefully but authoritatively.” Remember that “No, thank you” is a complete sentence. Many of us feel the need to give a reason or excuse for declining, but in reality, we don’t need to say anything further. “No thank you” or “I’m unable to do that, but I appreciate you thinking of me,” are perfectly fine. If you’re determined to live your life by design and decrease your stress, you must learn to say no to what does not serve you in achieving those goals. Saying no allows you to focus on what you’ve intentionally said yes to and to maximize those opportunities.
A large part of managing stress effectively is being able to manage time effectively. Do you let others push their demands on you or are you able to be more intentional and proactive with your time? Delegating the tasks that don’t fulfill you will give you time back, as will saying “no” to the things that aren’t aligned with your larger goals. Taking time to frequently reflect and give your brain a mental break is also key; you will be able to see the larger picture and focus on the big initiatives that will truly drive results while letting go of the minutiae that usually drives stress. Start using these practices today; they address the time management issues that self-care won’t.