There’s no doubt that excess stress is a major health concern. But stress in itself shouldn’t be an excuse for low productivity. In fact, you can optimize stress to optimize productivity.
Healthy levels of stress can actually make you stronger, more resilient, more creative, and more productive. This is called eustress. It’s the kind of stress that athletes use to fuel their performance and stay in what they call “the zone”. Too little stress can be just as anti-productive as too much stress. This is the reasoning behind some very wealthy people not leaving great wealth to their children.
There’s a definite link between stress and productivity. When you have no pressure or not enough pressure, your motivation drops and so does your productivity. Procrastination can set in, distractions divert your attention and things take longer than they should. With increased stress comes increased performance, but only up to a certain level. The bell curve below shows how this works.
The Stress Graph
Optimal stress levels vary widely. What one person finds stressful another person might be totally unfazed by. What’s important is to work out how stress impacts you and how you can manage it for your productivity. Here are the four tips that will help you to do that.
1.Understand your Needs
The quality of your wellbeing is directly related to how well you’re meeting your needs. Understanding your needs helps you to work out how you can best meet them. This directly leads to a happier, more productive, and more fulfilling life.
We all have five basic needs
b. Financial security
- Love and Belonging
a. Nourishing and supportive relationships
b. Sense of belonging
a. Internal Control
Everything you do and everything you think every day is an attempt to meet your needs. Problems can arise when you meet some of your needs at the expense of others.
You need all of these things in your life to a certain degree, but the degrees are different for everyone. The degree of importance each need has for you forms your Needs Profile.
Here are some examples of how things in your life may be out of alignment due to your needs.
a. If you have a high need for survival, and are also entrepreneurial you’ll need to have your finances sorted out so that you have a safety net before stepping into anything financially risky.
b. If you have a high need for love and belonging your relationships will be very important to you. Your stress levels will be in a much better place if you nurture your relationships and address issues as soon as possible.
c. High power needs mean that you’ll feel very stressed in a job where you’re not competent, where there are unrealistic demands or where your achievements aren’t recognized.
2. Set Realistic Time Limits
Having a limit to the amount of time you spend on a task adds some pressure. It also helps to keep you focused and working at an efficient pace. Without time boundaries you can get stuck for too long on something and this can actually build more stress in the long run. Deadlines should be tight enough to add pressure but not too tight so that they cause excess stress. This is something that can only really become clear over time and testing.
3. Set Goals
Having goals gives you something to get out of bed for.
- To optimize stress, goals should be challenging without being overwhelming.
- Goals should meet your needs in a meaningful way.
- Remember your “why”. If you can’t do this then chances are your goal isn’t meaningful enough.
4. Practice Self-Awareness and Self-Evaluate
Optimizing your stress and your productivity should be dynamic, i.e. changing. Like anything you can be always improving if you stay aware of how things impact you and how you can be better. Awareness of your own productivity and stress is far more valuable than paying for other people to tell you how they stay productive. What works for them won’t necessarily work for you.
Think about what’s behind the way you’re feeling. Observe your thinking … is it serving you or slowing you?
Staying in the zone of optimal stress, or eustress, not only improves your productivity, but it also allows you to be more creative. It might feel uncomfortable at times if you’re not used to working under pressure for sustained periods of time. By reassuring yourself of what’s going on and what you want to achieve, you can learn to be more comfortable.
A lot of excess stress is just the result of worrying about stress, the future, and things you can’t control. And of course, it’s important to relax and turn off regularly. There’s real satisfaction and enjoyment to be had when you learn how to switch your productive stress on and off.
How to Deal With Stress and Anxiety
Would you like a complete framework to fully understand the underlying causes of your stress and how to manage it moving forward? Check out our online course.
There was some really great advice in here that wasn’t generic crap that people who don’t actually know but just copied and pasted from other sites. This was very helpful and I’m interested in your other stuff I’ll have to come back and read more about what you’ve posted. Its very informative and useful.
Thanks Dash, Understanding our needs is so important in the entrepreneurial journey.
Most of us tend to ignore our mental health when it comes to mental health versus our physical health. But I think that they both are important especially our mental health. I read Ikigai and the book said a little stress is great for you but not too much. I think setting SMART goal and track your progress is the way to go. That way you can see the progress in how far you have come so you will be less stressed about your performance. Finding the hobby that you enjoy does help too. Also practice self love is important.
Very true Nuttanee, thanks for your comment 🙂
This is a very practical and useful post.
As you clearly state, stress is normal and essential. But must be kept within the Eustress limits.
I totally appreciate the example you give of some needing love and belonging in our relationship. This is certainly one that I struggle with.
I think your section on self awareness is very important as so often we don’t take the time to really examine the causes and then we don’t effectively deal with the real cause.
Thanks for the very helpful information.
Thanks Geoff, I appreciate your comment and wish you all the best in your relationships 🙂
Hello, yes, I agree. I haven’t really thought about stress in that way before. I have had times where stress has got the better of me, and I have not used it in the right way to channel the energy. Good content and useful information on how to deal with stress in different ways.
Thank you so much for all of that information. It was very insightful and addresses a very important topic concerning mental health awareness. My favorite part was the descriptive information under ‘Self Awareness and Evaluating’. I think everyone should harbor these qualities. I agree that it is very important to say “what’s behind the way you’re feeling.” I like that you conclude with the advisement to learn how to switch your productive stress on and off. I will definitely use this today and moving forward. Thank you, I will be back to read more of your content. You’re the best I’ve seen in while!
Thanks Ayoola for your kind words 😉 very much appreciated.
I’m so happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.
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Thanks glad to be of help
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