“How are you doing today?” you may ask a friend or colleague. “I’m good thanks for asking, yourself?” say, some. “Very busy nowadays” say, many others. “Busy” may be one of the most heard words in the corporate world. Do you agree? And why is that? If you feel you are a busy person, have you ever asked yourself, why? Have you ever asked yourself how to manage your time and work pressure? I have been in the same shoes. And I am blast I have helped myself and many individuals with solving and dealing with work pressure. Read the following hints.
First of all, take care of yourself
If you don’t nobody else may take care of you. Learn from the metaphoric security instructions prior to flights. The hosts say, if there is oxygen problem put your own mask first and then that of your baby. I believe this is a very well thought philosophy. If you cannot breathe well yourself, you simply cannot help anybody else with breathing. So, take care of yourself. Start with eating healthy and proper rest.
Be proactive to avoid work pressure
Being proactive is one of most appreciated behavioral codes in the corporate world. When being proactive you initiate often your desired projects. You schedule the meetings yourself or you give instruction to your PA to do so. Believe it or not when you take initiative, you plan as it best suits you. For example, you take into account when you have plans for holidays or when you have a busier schedule. And so you can manage your work pressure. Therefore, be the first who offers options for a meeting. In this case you offer options that work the best for you. If you receive several options from others, the unwritten rule is, accept one unless you really can’t. There is a difference between what we can do and what we want to. Do you agree?
Clarity is one of the most important factors impacting performance, research has proven. Make sure it is clear for you what you are expected to do. Don’t you understand an assignment, then go to the right person and ask for clarity. How often has the following happened to you? You have done your very best but the results are not as expected. Why is that? In many cases because a clear common understanding of the assignment and the deliverable has been missing when accepting the assignment.
Have a plan
When you need to manage an initiative or finalize an assignment, make sure you have a well thought plan. How to start, where to start, what you need, how you can get what you need, and so on. When you have a plan, you set the plan as it best suits according to your professional judgement. When you don’t have a plan you will become a part of other man’s plan. Having no plans makes you often busier than you really want to be. You will be scheduled according to other ones’ plans which sometimes goes hand in hand with work pressure.
Learn to say No when No is the best
How often has it happened to you? An important stakeholder gives you a ring asking “would you please do this for me by the end of the week?” You reply, “yeah, sure”? Short after you realize having your schedule in mind it is mission impossible to get the assignment done as requested. You feel embarrassed getting back to the requester. As a result, you feel a kind of pressure which you have created yourself. When you can’t meet the expectation just simply say you can’t explaining the reason. Be creative and come with an alternative. For example, “yeah, I’d love to, but not earlier than late next week. Is that OK”?
Schedule to be unscheduled to avoid work pressure
Make sure you have some time every day which is your time and yours only. It is also called scheduling to be unscheduled. I call it breathing time. Leave some 10-15 minutes between your meetings to act mindfully. Even robots need to be unscheduled from time to time. Block some time in your agenda to work as you want to, without pressure and at your speed. You can devote these blocks to matters which need your focus, your brainstorm. Use a part of your unscheduled time to clear up your head, to take a walk, to focus and to practice mindfulness.
Go to the bathroom often, without your smartphone
Go a few times to the bathroom every day and leave your smartphone behind if it is save to do so. If you take your smartphone with you do not start reading your emails and sending text messages while being in bathroom. Bathroom time can also be used as a moment to give your mind a break.
Don’t do the work someone else is hired for
Should I be doing this? is a healthy question. Of course we all have been helped by others someday. So we are supposed to help others when we can. When others (colleagues or reporters) need your help frequently, have them learn how to fish, instead of giving them the fish every time. Help the colleagues learn to do the work instead of doing the work for them. Hire a coach to help them how to use their potential. Do not be a control freak, focus on results and let your reporters work as they want to as long as the delivery is according to the plan and the company codes. Use the coaching and selling styles instead of commanding.
Skip unnecessary meetings to reduce work pressure
How many meetings have you joined which are actually not meant for you? Why am I actually here, what is my role, you may ask yourself. Skip the meetings which are not meant for you. I know a partner from McKinsey. When receiving invitations by which any bell rings, he always asks kindly “Hi there, happy to meet, would you please let me know what we would be talking about? I’d like to get prepared” When not sure just ask: what is the purpose of the meeting?
Read and answer your mails in one go
I spoke with one of my executive clients who received around 500 business emails per day, excluding text messages. He said he considered two slots per day in his agenda to read and answer his emails. He quickly scans his emails on several criteria i.e. subject, urgency, VIP sender and relevance. He forwards the emails to his team members based on subject matter, with the request “would you please pick this up” or “I guess this is for you”. Personally, I put my CCs in a separate box and read them 3x times a week. If I am the person to act, then I take action accordingly. Make sure you do not open several emails simultaneously unless they are interconnected. Sometimes you get involved in an escalation or exiting discussion. Then you close your mailbox and forget to read and answer the read mails again. As result you will receive embarrassing reminders and so work pressure and stress.
When you are free stay free
Manage your work during your work time so that you don’t have to work during your free time. Read another post of mine, 10 tips to enjoy your vacation. When you work during your free time, you cannot rest properly, you cannot spend enough quality time with your beloved ones. As a matter of fact, you may mix up your work and private life. The issues on either side impact the other. After a short while you feel a kind of huge pressure and stressful time. When you are stressful and under pressure, you cannot perform as you want to, or supposed to. So, work pressure and stress become more and more and so will the private part. As a result, the work pressure and stress may lead to a burnout.
Find out critical success factors
Not everything matters and you cannot be doing things out of which nothing matters. When you have many things on your plate, create a common understanding with your sponsors and stakeholders what is important and what isn’t. Get clarity on the key success factors. Focus on the 20% of the activities or initiatives which represent 80% of your performance or success. Plan the other 20% during your spare time. Find out when the assignment is succeeded. Remember, there is a very tiny distance between success and failure. If the critical things are well taken care of, you will be successful. If the same things are not well taken care of, you will fail. For example, as a doctor, your operations are only successful when your patient survives. The survival of the patient is the most critical factor in the whole operation process.
Don’t think, but check
Do not keep doing things assuming all goes ok. Do not act all the time based on what you think. Check instead. Have several checkpoints to evaluate if you are on the right path. If there are important factors in your project, or assignment make sure you have absolute clarity on the important factors. You can only be sure of something when you test or check it.
Work smart, play smart
Instead of working hard and playing hard, work and play SMART. Make sure what you do is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time related. So you can’t spend endless time on endless initiatives without a clear road map and predefined deliverable. To me, playing smart means doing things we enjoy the most within the devoted resources (i.e. time and money). For example, you are going to visit Disney Land together with your partner and two kids. When you are watching a movie together with your 6 years old son, please turn off your cell-phone. Be there for your son and watch and enjoy watching so that your son enjoys your company. I spend 3 hours every day with my son (almost 3). Every evening we watch 3x cartoons together (one hour in total), and my son loves this quality time. When you have a conversation of an hour with your partner, don’t reply to the annoying messages coming from all kinds of apps. Be there with all your attention so that you have a fruitful conversation with your partner.
Develop and use your soft skills
Remember, research has proven almost 85% of what we have achieved, is thanks to our soft skills. I believe we have failed in many cases due to our shortcomings in soft skills. So refresh your soft skills such as communication, relationship management, listening and sensitivity. Just ask your stakeholders, your manager, your fellows what they appreciate the most and what you may avoid when engaged with them. Having proper soft skills reduces work pressure.
Let me learn from you
I am blast that I have many connections from whom I learn every day. Please let me learn from your comments and thoughts too.
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About the author
Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and high potentials unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500.