In late 2015, the American Institute of Stress published the outcome of research that dug into the top causes of stress in the U.S.
Can you guess the #1 cause of stress? Job pressure.
Early in my role as owner of 25% of the lines at a manufacturing plant responsible for $2 Billion in annual sales, it was easy to feel important. I found myself using my newfound “importance” as an excuse to regularly put in 10 to 12 hour days in the office plus another 1 or 2 after dinner plus another 4 to 8 on the weekends.
At this time, I was also just a few months away from getting married and my soon-to-be wife called me out on it. To be honest, at first I was defensive. I told her she had no idea what my team and I were being asked to deliver. After my ego got out of the way, I realized she was right and that my priorities had gotten twisted.
If you find yourself in the same boat—whether it’s an issue with working too many hours or anything else you want to see a change in—what can you do?
Here are 3 specific actions you can take:
Acknowledge the Current Situation
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. The point isn’t to judge or criticize yourself. All that’s going to do is create frustration that leads to inaction. And if you’re anything like me, sometimes a reminder from someone you care about is what it takes. Just make sure you react with gratitude instead of how I initially reacted in my example above. Just think—if they never had the courage to bring it up, you may not have realized that something needed to change until it was already too late.
Define What You Want Instead
If tomorrow you woke up and on a scale of 1-10 the amount negative job stress you experienced was only a level 2, what would be different? Ultimately, your definition of a low stress environment might be will be unique to you but here are just a few examples of my own.
- Deadlines wouldn’t be so tight.
- Focus items would be limited to the critical few.
- I would have more freedom to create my own processes and systems necessary to run the business.
- My work would be focused on delivering results that help people do their best work.
- I’d be improving my skills in areas I care about.
In the end, writing down a list of wishes doesn’t do too much in causing the change we want to see. So, the next step is to…
At first glance, your list might evoke a feeling of frustration. After all, isn’t it your employer’s fault that deadlines are so tight and that you have too many projects to deliver? What if we looked at our circumstances and asked a better question?
What can I do to influence the situation?
Take tight deadlines for example. Even if the deadline is non-negotiable, to influence the situation I could do a number of things like:
- Learn how to improve my effectiveness so I can get more of the right stuff done in less time.
- Request additional or different resources.
- Break big projects down into more manageable chunks.
The bottom line is that we’re going to have to put in the effort if we want things to change.
It would be easy for us to point the finger at our employer for being at fault. Instead of taking the wheel, some of us act like victim passengers. As a result, we go along for the ride full of resentment and sometimes even anger.
Your employer has a part to play in reducing the stress you experience because of your job but you play the bigger one. That’s a good thing because it means that you have a bigger influence on the situation.
Ciao for now,
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