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November 9, 2022 - 9 minutes

How to Handle Stress at Work

Any job worth doing gets stressful from time to time. Dealing with it makes it miles easier!

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Are you stressed at work? Does it make it difficult and sometimes even spill over into your personal life? Any job can have its more intense phases and with them, its share of pressure. You can learn to manage them. But the most important thing is to identify the causes of your daily stress: is it the workload? Your work itself? Your environment (the company, your boss, etc.)? Because once you have identified the cause, you can work on it to find serenity at work

This article will help you to take stock of what stresses you at work. It will also give you advice on how to change things for the better. Keep your heart up!

Figure Out Where Your Stress is Coming From…And Dealing With It!

1. You care too much

Remember. Have you ever dreamt about that project you forgot to do or even talked about your job in your sleep? Your other half noticed and didn't hesitate to laugh at you in the morning. There's no doubt that you take your job very much to heart... A little too much, sometimes?

It happens to all of us perfectionists that we find it difficult to compromise on the quality of our work. And when emergencies pile up, we don't always manage to prioritise 20% of the tasks that will yield 80% of the benefits... We sometimes get stuck on this micro-copy issue in a minor email, or on this bug on the front end that has few implications on the overall design of the site we are coding, even though we know it's neither rational nor efficient. And on top of that, we end up feeling guilty for not being productive enough. It's a double penalty.

So how can you regain your peace of mind? 

Your perfectionism is the hidden side of the coin when you love your job. It's a feisty stallion that we'd like to teach you to tame. Tougher people than you have succeeded, so don't give up hope!

Remember that : 

  • You are competent and your work does not have to be absolutely perfect all the time. It can be of very good quality overall, and no one will hold it against you. 

  • If your to-do-list spills over into your evenings and weekends, this is not a tenable situation. Your job is a marathon, not a sprint. Your colleagues and bosses need you to stay on top of things. So you have the right to prioritise and refuse tasks. The trick is to communicate about it

  • All successful entrepreneurs will tell you the well-known phrase: better done than perfect. I know, you hate that philosophy, it goes against all your work ethics and quality principles. But more often than not, it makes sense. 

  • Learn to delegate. Again, I feel you. That's time to train colleagues and freelancers who don't know your stuff as well as you do. But your mental load will thank us for the advice. Letting go is the key!

2. You don’t care at all

At the other end of the spectrum of perfectionists who are passionate about their jobs and stress about doing them badly is you. The ones who are slowly dying of bore-out. Who hate their job. Despise their company's activity. Don't find it useful. And only dream of getting out.

So how can you regain your peace of mind? 

Let me tell you a hard but necessary truth. It's ten times more stressful to work in a job you hate. So I'll be brief: if you can relate to this description, there's only one way out: get ready to leave. Whether it's to change companies or even jobs, take your courage in both hands and the bull by the horns and dream big about the next step in your career. 

And one last tip. In this hilarious TED Talk on procrastination, successful blogger Tim Urban explains that everyone procrastinates, but on different levels. And the power of his argument lies in his genius remark: the most pernicious procrastination occurs when there is no deadline. « Long-time procrastination makes people feel as spectators in their own lives », explains Tim. No one is going to chase you out of that job, except your willingness to leave. Tim shows a calendar on the screen that contains one square per week of a 90-year life. Spoiler alert: all the squares fit in one slide! Life is an extraordinary gift, and a short one. So please, get out of your job quickly and find one you love. Only this will make you feel better.

3. You’ve got too much to do

Third configuration, your agenda is full. You work all day, during lunch breaks, in the evening and even on weekends. It's no wonder you're cracking up. 

So how can you regain your peace of mind? 

It's very simple. You will have to prioritise better, communicate well and delegate more

  • As far as priorities are concerned, use the Eisenhauer matrix. Prioritise the urgent and important tasks, plan the important but unhurried tasks. Delegate the less important and urgent tasks. And please, don't spend another minute on non-urgent and unimportant tasks! Just let it go.

  • Also learn to manage your calendar better. Put the most important tasks on it first. Block off time in your calendar to make sure you have time. And specify your working hours. Even put an "Out of office" filter when you are not supposed to be working!

  • On the communication side, it may seem counterproductive, but take more time to promote your work and educate your colleagues… and even your boss! The more visible you are and the more indispensable you appear to be, the more your time will be respected. If everyone is aware of all the big files you are dealing with, they will understand when you explain that there is no room for new tasks or projects. 

  • Finally, train your colleagues, interns, teams, freelancers to absorb some of your work. You’ll see, soon you will not be able to do without their help!

4. You’ve got too many meetings

Your typical week, meetings from 9am to 7pm with a half hour lunch break. Not even time to take minutes, let alone do any real work. This is absolutely tiring, stressful and frustrating. It can even be blamed on you because as a matter of fact, you are not being productive. Start with Don't worry, it doesn't have to be that way

So how can you regain your peace of mind? 

Start by checking which meetings you are needed in. Explain to your colleagues that you will leave any meetings where you are not, and read their minutes if necessary. 

Help organise meetings better. They are often long and pointless, and not often followed by concrete action. Here are some tips: 

Appoint a facilitator to create the event, write the agenda and send it out the day before, be the timekeeper and take notes for the minutes. Invite only the necessary people and send the minutes to the team for information. Most meetings can be held between 15 and 30 minutes. Don't accept any delays, it will educate your colleagues and save everyone time. Don't run over. These tips should allow you to do two crucial things: 

  • fewer people in meetings (including you!) so time gained for everybody

  • more efficiency and shorter meetings.

Finally, remember to schedule deep work and no-meeting days in your agenda. Campaign for everyone in the company to have the right to do so, as it's beneficial for you all.

5. You don’t like your boss

Are you stressed by your hierarchy? It is said that people do not leave companies, but their managers. 

Either you got off on the wrong foot with your boss. They are not a bad person, but you have different ways of working, sensitivities, which explains why things are not working out. If this is the case, you can put things right! The best thing to do is to call on a facilitator, someone neutral (from another team or even from outside the company) to help you talk. You can do this with the help of non-violent communication. This is the key. 

If, on the other hand, you have tried to establish dialogue but you have a toxic, stubborn and aggressive leader in front of you, it complicates things. Firstly, talk to your HR or management about the problems you are experiencing, in a factual way. Give examples of situations and what you have tried (unsuccessfully) to do to improve things. Put that in writing. Perhaps they will have solutions for you or even look to recruit a more constructive manager. If things don't improve, maybe it's time to open your eyes to other professional opportunities...

6. You’ve got real-life stress

The last option is that it's not your job that's giving you a sore throat, but rather your personal stress that's spilling over into work. We all have our worries at home, with a sick relative, a child with school problems, arguments, family problems... 

One way of relieving the pressure is to talk about it (sparingly) to your colleagues or even your management. This is a temporary situation, but depending on the seriousness of your personal problems, it may require adjustments at work. In particular, it is not uncommon for companies to adopt the possibility of taking exceptional leave to accompany a loved one at the end of life, to recover from a miscarriage or to look after children when they are ill. If this facility does not yet exist but you need it, you don’t risk anything if you ask for it. Worst case scenario, your boss says ‘no’.

Are you afraid your commitment to work will be questioned? Look at things from another angle. What if you can't concentrate, make mistakes or just have to leave the office? It would be brave and responsible to talk about this so that you can find the best way to organise yourself and no one else has to work twice as hard because you have to be away from one day to the other. 

Lessen Job Stress: Get a Job You Love

To say the least, you now have a toolbox for reducing stress at work. 

Now, we'd like to give you THE simplest and yet most powerful tip. Love your work. You will do it without constraint. You will be great at it. You will feel useful. Your colleagues (or clients) will congratulate you. You'll be much less stressed, much more aligned with who you are (and want to be!).

And if you're not quite there yet, consider enrolling in a bootcamp to retrain yourself.

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