Tips for clearing away stress from your workplacesam
As hard as I work every day, shouldn’t I have “arrived” by now? It’s a question that nags at you as you slog through each day, bound to the tyranny of your to-do list, one eye constantly on the clock. It seems all you do is work, but you have only mediocre results to show for it. Once, you had big goals and the confidence to achieve them, but now all you feel is tired, stressed, and overburdened. It seems the dreams you once had—of leading your department, being the top salesperson, joining the C-suite—have disappeared into the quicksand that has become your daily life.
If this scenario describes you, Andy Core says you’re not a loser. Like so many others, you’re an unwitting victim of today’s demanding work culture, not to mention bad habits that are sabotaging your best efforts.
“As you go through life, you develop habits and routines that you think will help you succeed,” says Core, author of the new book Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well (Wiley, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-81598-4, $23.00, www.andycore.com). “Problem is, many of those patterns probably don’t work for you personally. What’s productive for your coworker may not work well for you, for example. Or a strategy that was effective five years ago may no longer work.”
Even your instincts can lead you astray, he says. But you can change habits and patterns that don’t serve you. You can refocus your attention, redirect your thoughts, and generate greater motivation, energy, optimism, and creativity, as well as more rewarding relationships.
A credentialed, award-winning thought leader on increasing employee engagement, Core is the perfect coach to help you become what he calls a “Thriver”: someone who works hard, meets or exceeds expectations, and enjoys high levels of personal and professional success, accompanied by (and this is the best part) lower stress levels.
His book gives readers the tools to create precisely that type of life. It also includes a curriculum to help companies reengage employees, improve communication, retain talent, and boost innovation—all of which catapult overall profitability.
“To start reclaiming the goals that once inspired and excited you, you’ll have to change the way you approach your day,” says Core. “Instead of a worker whose actions are dictated by supervisors and to-do lists, you’ll need to begin acting like the CEO of your own life.”
Read on for a few CEO-worthy tactics that will help you start thriving immediately:
Figure out what’s doable in a day. In Change Your Day, Core writes about a woman named Janet. She came to him hoping that he could help her find some semblance of balance. She was overworked, overstressed, and overweight. She had no time to exercise or to spend with friends and family. She was constantly on the go and fueled by caffeine, with no chance to recuperate between projects. Not surprisingly, Janet wanted to change her life.
“Initially, Janet was disappointed when I told her that changing her life was just too hard,” Core recalls. “But I explained that turning your whole life around is too big a goal. You can’t sustain that many major changes at once. Instead, I told Janet, I simply wanted her to change her day. I wanted her to reengineer her routine a little bit at a time, one day at a time, cutting out a small stressor here, and adding in a more productive habit there. Our whole strategy was to make small, doable changes that would, over time, create an unstoppable momentum.
“You must do the same,” Core adds. “You must set realistic boundaries. You must create goals that can be accomplished in the space of a day. Remember, nearly all problems, challenges, and needs are best faced if they are brought down to the scale of ‘what can be done right now’ by taking on ‘one small piece’ of a difficult situation.”
Get big things done before 9:00 a.m. (instead of snoozing, procrastinating, and lurking at the water cooler). Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.
“Figure out where these areas are for you and commit to learning a new pattern,” he urges. “For me, that meant buying a book and relearning how to type using a two-hand method. In the cooking example above, that might mean getting into the habit of planning meals and shopping for their ingredients each weekend. Yes, learning new patterns can initially be tedious and laborious. But once they’ve taken hold—often in three weeks or less—they’ll speed up your performance, streamline your effort, and lower your stress. By putting in some thought about ‘problem areas’ now, you’ll save yourself from having to think about them later. Eventually, this method changes once-tedious tasks into automatic, ‘I don’t have to think about it’ behaviors.”
Infuse meaning into your work. First, let’s get one thing straight: Doing meaningful work does not mean that you will “love” every second of it. “Meaning” can simply be a recognition of what you enjoy about your work. With that understanding, though, you’ll be more motivated, productive, and satisfied. Core recommends completing the following exercise:
• Focus on what gives you the greatest joy and meaning at work—be able to define it.
• Reflect on how you are making a difference at work and through your work—be able to give examples.
• Reflect on the meaning of your work as it relates to your core values.
• And then…seek to increase what you enjoy!
“Treat yourself with the same compassion and generosity you’d extend to another person who’d messed up or fallen short of a goal,” urges Core. “If it helps, follow the two-hour rule I learned from one of my past coaches: When you have a bad performance or make a mistake, you have two hours to pout, scream, cry, wallow, or do whatever you think will help you deal with the disappointment. But when 120 minutes have passed, it’s time to start moving forward again.
“Remember, nobody is perfect,” he adds. “We all make mistakes. What sets Thrivers apart is the fact that after a fall, they forgive themselves faster, get back up, and continue the journey forward.”
“By making small changes in how you approach your day, you can begin to take back your to-do list and accomplish the big goals that will really help you thrive,” Core concludes. “It’s time to stop allowing your quest for success to leave you feeling tired, stressed, and disillusioned. So, how will your tomorrow look different from your today? What is one small change you can make right now to start rewiring the patterns that define your life?”
About the Author
Andy Core is the author of Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well (Wiley, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-81598-4, $23.00, www.andycore.com). He is an award-winning lecturer, author, television host, and expert in human performance and motivation. Voted a 2012 Top5 Global Health/Healthcare Speaker by Speakers Platform, Andy has a master’s degree in the science of human performance and has spent the past 23 years mastering what it takes to become energized, healthy, motivated, and better equipped to thrive in today’s hectic society.