If you’ve got indoor plumbing, a machine in your basement that pumps hot and cool air into your house, and it’s just a trip down the road to pick up all the food you can eat, then life is good. Most, if not all, of your daily problems are, as the saying goes, “first-world problems.”
But yet, we’re some of the most stressed out people in the world. What a paradox right?!?
What I want to talk about here is one main culprit of our stress, and one of the main reasons why a growing number of people should consider productivity training to relieve the stress and be more successful in every area of their lives.
We juggle a ton of things
Take a look at this list of things I juggle from day to day…
- Clients. At any given point in time, I may be managing 6-8 clients, while contributing high-level strategy feedback to 15-20 more.
- Platforms. Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora, Reddit, and on and on.
- Strategies. The best strategy for each client on each platform is…it depends.
- Tactics/Tasks. Each client may have 10-50 tasks in the queue at any particular point in time.
- Training. In a constantly changing industry, it’s necessary to be on top of the newest things, the latest trends, and the smartest strategies.
When I take a step back and look at this list, my stomach starts to tighten.
It’s likely that you can relate…and this isn’t even including all the things that fight for attention, time and energy outside of work. Some of you may even look at this list and wish that’s all you had on your plate (business owners FTW!).
So what’s this culprit I’m referring to that leaves people constantly stressed out despite having amazingly good lives?
The lack of clear and executable boundaries. Whole books have been written about this subject (I highly recommend this one).
If your work is edge-less…
With the rise of the knowledge worker comes the rise of edge-less work. Those with these types of careers have no boundaries if they’re not consciously put in place because there’s always something new to learn, a new strategy to think up, a new tactic to execute, a new test to run. There’s more available to do than you would ever have the time and energy for…and you can find yourself being constantly sucked into the endless abyss.
This is for sure the case in my chosen career in digital marketing and early on, I found myself working nights and weekends in my push to keep up with my own personal perception of what I needed to accomplish. Especially being in such a constantly-changing industry, I was always worried that I’d be missing some piece of news or some strategy that I couldn’t miss.
Not only do these kinds of careers present a challenge, but we also now live in the most over-communicative society in the history of the planet. Because of advances in communication technology, we’re constantly barraged with things seeking our attention, from notifications to emails to calls to whatever. And you’ve been programmed by it. I know you get the shakes if you try to sit for 10 minutes without some kind of stimulation. You’re not alone.
Since you started reading this, my guess is you probably thought about checking your email, got a notification about something, or assessed whether you want to truly read this whole article given all the other things you have to do.
In the book Getting Things Done, David Allen puts what we’re dealing with in our culture today in perspective…
“Most of us have, in the past seventy-two hours, received more change-producing, project-creating, and priority-shifting inputs than our parents did in a month, maybe even in a year.”
We have to protect ourselves
So that’s our situation, but we don’t know how to deal with all of the things that grab our attention; so we overcommit, do a sometimes less-than-stellar job on those commitments and stress ourselves out.
Here’s the thing…it’s not easy to protect ourselves from it. Our education, to-do lists, and project management tools haven’t cut it to deal with the volume and variable nature of the average person’s workload. This results in life just tossing you around if you aren’t proactive about dealing with it.
The reality is this is not going away. Therefore, we have to learn how to deal with it. We can take back control and become more content, more productive and more successful.
Right now, as I’m sitting here writing this, I’ve got what seems like a million other things to do. Yet, I don’t feel stressed at all. In fact, I feel like I’m in a zone. I’m focused. I’m relaxed. I’m enjoying the work.
But, this doesn’t come naturally. I’ve worked hard to get to this place. But, it’s not just about hard work. It’s about implementing proven tools and practices that can set us up to be the most efficient, productive people we can be; but with clear heads, low stress and a positive sense of relaxed control.
I’ve made and am making progress. You can too.
In future posts, I’m going to be talking about those tools and practices that you can implement in your own work and life so you’ll be equipped to create your own edges, stay focused, relax, be more productive and enjoy your work more.