By the Ignite Career Center of JCS
The phone rings. An email dings. Your Slack pings. You have a Zoom in five minutes, a deadline in three hours, and you’ll probably have to work overtime to cover for your sick colleague. Of course, you’re stressed! You are probably among the more than 50% of U.S. workers who reports feeling workplace stress daily. For women, the rates are even higher. With the pandemic, the line between work and home became more blurred, and even now those boundaries often feel less defined.
Like most employees, you might feel overwhelmed trying to:
- juggle a heavy workload
- prove your productivity to your supervisors
- manage conflicts with clients and colleagues
- obtain a feeling of job security
These stressors might be contributing to serious concerns, such as:
- decrease in energy levels and effective performance
- mental health decline, such as depression and anxiety
- negative physical manifestation, like sleeping difficulties or appetite changes
Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce such stress. On a practical level, you can improve your organization and time management skills. However, you can also work on something seemingly less tangible — your mindset. Read below for ideas to help you in both aspects.
Scheduling: Devoting yourself to a schedule can help you feel less stressed.
- Block times: Each one of us has a unique combination of roles to play in our professional lives. Dedicating time to each role can help relieve the anxiety about having to do everything at once. Let’s say you are responsible for managing a project, completing data entry, and seeing clients. Try to figure out when you’re most productive at each task. Perhaps you like to work on projects in the morning when you’re most creative; complete data entry in the afternoon since you feel sluggish; and see clients in the evening when your second wind hits. If that’s the plan you make, stick to it and you’ll see that the pressure over having “so much to do” starts to dissipate because there’s a start and stop point to each hat you wear.
- Turn off emails: When you are blocking time, you must be dedicated to the task you plan to accomplish. Turn off your email notifications during your block times and set aside separate block times to check and answer messages. Otherwise, you will feel that every new request is equally as important as the other. You’ll spend more time adding to your to-do list rather than crossing things off from it.
- Take breaks: Just as you want some uninterrupted productive time, you also need to allow yourself to take breaks. Even stepping away from a task briefly can help you recharge and provide an opportunity to return with a fresh mindset.
- Be proactive rather than reactive: Reflect on common issues that come up in your work and find a way to address them upfront. If you get asked the same question multiple times a day, it might be time to create a manual for your colleagues. If you keep forgetting to do a monthly task, set a recurring reminder. This way, you spend less time putting out fires and more time being productive.
- Manage your projects: Work backwards, always. If something is due December 31, make an outline on October 1 and give yourself ample time to not only break the project into smaller parts, but also have time to deal with unexpected roadblocks. Take away the looming fear of the size and impending deadline of the project by controlling how you will tackle it.
Boundaries: Establish boundaries to preserve your peace.
- Ask for support or delegate tasks: If you are feeling overwhelmed or suddenly have too many projects in the works, it is not a sign of weakness to seek help. If you need to run a report, but don’t quite know how; rather than spend hours of your time watching tutorials, ask a colleague to train you. Or, if a project has become overwhelming, present a few tasks you need help completing at a staff meeting. Usually, people are happy to collaborate.
- Talk honestly with your supervisor: Expressing your true thoughts and needs to your employer can make you feel vulnerable but remember that your supervisor is there to support you and help you succeed. Though they may not be able to say yes to every request, they will likely appreciate knowing how you are feeling and want to help problem-solve ways to minimize your sense of stress moving forward.
- Say no: Even if people have come to expect you to take on extra tasks, you have the prerogative to decline. Think realistically about your capacity right now. It is reasonable to say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I can’t take this on right now” or to talk with your supervisor about other current priorities and how a new assignment will affect those.
- Apply some professional rules to your personal life: The logic of block time applies to your personal life as well as your professional life. Thinking about the various roles and activities you engage in each day and trying to set reasonable time frames for each will actually allow you to give your best self to each without feeling divided or distracted. Also, set boundaries around your family life like not checking or responding to work emails during dinner. Make sure that some of your time is devoted to you and taking care of your physical and mental health. Don’t put off scheduling a doctor’s appointment just as you wouldn’t avoid scheduling an important work meeting. Don’t forget to practice stress management techniques and don’t underestimate the restorative power of a vacation or even a staycation to help you clear your head.
You may not be able to eliminate all your life stressors, but with a few intentional shifts, you may be able to keep them manageable.
Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or call 410-466-9200.