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.