April 2017

Stop Stressing: Two Tips


Recent reports show that stress is higher than ever although we have more access to technology, which should be saving us time and making life easier, right?
I hear some of you saying, “Wrong.”  Technology seems to have put us in “always-on, always-available” mode.  In our effort to always be “up,” we have less downtime.  However, how much of this attitude and subsequent behavior are self-inflicted versus imposed?  Some people feel that they must respond immediately to messages and be available via phone 24/7.  There are some professions I work with where that is true (e.g. doctors, hospital facilities crews, IT help desk), but how many of us are simply addicted to urgency? 
In his book, “First Things First,” Stephen R. Covey has “The Urgency Index®” that you can take.  I was embarrassed and alarmed to discover that I am addicted to urgency.  The truth is that I get a rush of adrenaline when responding to “crisis” that may not actually exist, but I create one to feel important, needed, and valuable.  In effect, I’m creating my own stress.  Sometimes there are real emergencies, and other times they show up like “Look an email!  I’m going to respond immediately to show that I’m on top of it!”

Here are two tips that have helped me immensely:

1) Question your assumptions about when something requires an immediate response.  Knowing that I’m addicted to urgency, I’ve disciplined myself to ask people, “When do you need this?” when they make a request instead of dropping everything to help them when they may not need it for days or even weeks.  Surprisingly, they usually ask for it later than I would have delivered it.  Asking for a due date instead of making an assumption means less stress because I have more flexibility to plan my work and deliver a quality product.

2) Spend time on important items like your sleep, diet, exercise, and planning to increase your ability to handle stress and decrease emergencies due to poor planning or insufficient time to think through problems.  For every hour that you spend planning, you will save 20-200 hours during the execution of your project.   Also, invest in strengthening relationships with others to minimize conflict and get support through challenging times.

If you want more planning tools and to learn how to build trusting relationships, join us May 11-12 at our upcoming two-day workshop called, “The Exceptional Project Manager” in Denver. If you are interested in learning more, click on this link to view details or please contact me.