7 things I’ve learned lately about work and stress

This post was written by Megan on March 20, 2012
Posted Under: burnout and stress management,burnout and the workplace

Sometimes I tie myself in knots cartoon

  1. Stop chewing over it
    I am getting better at identifying what's worth pulling apart and thinking about deeply and what demands an instant decision. Regarding the latter, the trick for me has been making a fast decision but giving myself time before I act. During the lag time an idea can pop up from my subconscious about the decision which has been much more useful than if I thought long and hard about it. Sounds trippy, but it's working for me.

  2. I am not a Chinese acrobat
    'But I can do more than one thing at a time!' No, you can't. Not even if you are a woman. It's that jumping around thing from checking emails, to liking someone on facebook, to working on a project to ringing a friend in need to planning dinner for that evening. This is a one-way ticket to self-created stress. Let it stop, for god's sake.
    God-saver tip from a friend: Check emails only at 11am and 4pm
    (this is on my e-signature so everyone knows, and that they can call if urgent)

  3. Knowing my three amigos
    I have no more than three main priority tasks for each day…or in my language: 'The Three Amigos' (which makes me feel warm 'n fuzzy about hanging out with these guys). Yes, the unexpected can change the plan. But when that happens, I'm immediately clear on what I'm sacrificing if I change tack. I'm making better decisions based on these circumstances – sometimes instantly.

  4. The sounds of Bach and the marimba
    I got the tip of playing Baroque music while working from Siimon Reynold's book Why People Fail. Something about the 4/4 time beat of the music that has been shown to increase work productivity. I'm just enjoying the music. It's calming and actually makes me want to stay in my office. I also use my marimba alarm on my phone to set regular break times. This means I sit for no more than an hour, which from the beginning makes the task feel more manageable. A marimba break is on the way…
  5. Rounding up free range bibs & bobs
    I do my best to keep focused on the three amigos I've set myself. If distracted by minor but valuable thoughts about other things, I jot those thoughts onto piece of paper or into a text file and attend to it at the end of the day or first thing next day. I don't stop in the middle of my important amigo like I used to because 'this will only take a few minutes, then it's done.'
  6. Give myself time and get it done
    I now realise that I've been setting crazy deadlines for myself and then procrastinating because of the insane pressure I've put myself under. This is a lose-lose situation. I now give myself more time and tell myself that I can now get the task done in the time given (because I talk to myself all the time – don't you?).
  7. I'm not perfect
    Shocking I know. For all this very efficient-sounding advice, I still get distracted and procrastinate. When that happens, I gently draw myself back to the amigo at hand (knowing I'll be having a cuppa soon enough). Before long, I'm absorbed in my work anyway – and surprised when the marimba sounds begin…

There's actually an eighth thing I've learned, but it requires a post all on its own – so stay tuned…

In the meantime, what works in work for you? Leave a comment, I'd love to know.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer and cartoonist who is controlling, chaotic, creative and clichéd.  Find out more about Megan

Reader Comments

Nice blog post, I see your friend has probably read the book "4-hour work week". Or at least I know he speaks about the same thing with the emails. If you ever get the time I'd suggest reading it, because I'm always on the lookout on how to make things easier so I don't have to worry about them so there's a bunch of great tips even if you're not looking for quick money or anything. Anyhoo, back to work hehe…

Written By Elyse on March 20th, 2012 @ 7:15 am

Hi Megan,
Thanks again for your new post! I like the way you share your experiences with burnout! I have the same experience as you and nearly got burnout in 2008. I realised just on time that something was really wrong…sleepless nights, anxiety, fighting against tears in the office etc. are not normal! I´m happy that I´m feeling much better now. It´s all about change…changing lifestyle, changing attitude etc. I enjoy reading your posts.
Greetings from The Netherlands!

Written By Rob on March 20th, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

Thanks so much, Rob. Greetings from Australia! (love the internet for this). Sounds like you’re doing really well now. I’d really like to know more about how you changed your lifestyle and attitude to side-step burnout. What were the big (or small) changes that made the difference to you? I’m sure others would love to know too. Feel like sharing?

Written By Megan on March 20th, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

Hi Megan,
As I mentioned in my post above I faced some really serious symptoms of burnout in 2008. For me it was the result of too many changes in life in a short time or I could better say this was `The last straw which breaks the camel's back`  (Is this proverb correct??). Before 2008 I already had some problems with stress but never paid attention to it. So in 2008 the following happened: I got a new (even more hectic) sales position, our new built house was delivered, a seriuos relationship crisis appeared (with the result that my trust was heavily affected) and in the same year we had (finaly) good news that we were expecting a baby.
I spent 7 months at home with serious stress and burnout symptoms. Difficult times but I realised something had to change. I chose a less hectic job, started yoga training, started respiratory therapy and so on. The past years I felt mostly okay with ups and downs. I stll have most problems with hyperventilation which causes anxiety.
But recently I made the biggest change. As I said before 'change' is very important in case of burnout. A couple of month ago I decided to quit my well paid job at a respected international company after 7 years. Reason: Life is about doing things you really like. Money, big company cars, prestige, respect…all nice….but if the work doesn't satisfy you for 100%….
I'm now focussing on setting up a business. Doing business at my way and not the way others would like to see me performing. I really don't miss all the patterns of expectations..this feels fantastic. I can't say that I don't have stress but the stress I now have is different then before. It actualy gives me energy!
So my key word is 'Change'. What's yours?
Rob – from The Netherlands

Written By Rob on March 22nd, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

Thanks so much for letting us know how you made it through, Rob. I also found leaving ‘the job’ and starting my own business a big step in the right direction. For a start, working from home means I can nap anytime I need to :) Of course, running your own business can be stressful and tiring too. But I am more empowered to make decisions that protect my health and happiness. Yes, you got the proverb correct. That last job of mine was definitely my last straw. There’s no doubt burnout can be a great teacher in helping you clarify what you really want.

Written By Megan on March 23rd, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

Thanks for the tip, Elyse. I’ve dipped in and out of it. Your comment has got me thinking I should read that book properly :) Was there any particular suggestions from the ’4 hour work week’ that you’ve implemented in your life and found especially helpful?

Written By Megan on March 23rd, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

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