LOL! I had a request for a blog post about maintaining mental health while juggling too many responsibilities, and I couldn’t resist! Thanks for the request, Natalie!
So usually when we’re under stress it’s because we’re trying to manage more responsibilities than we feel comfortable managing. Being super-busy isn’t a problem if you love what you’re doing and know you’re doing a good job, right? You get stressed out when you feel like it’s more than you can handle.
Since Natalie already mentioned “too many responsibilities” that’s a given. When you’re juggling too many responsibilities the obvious solution is to prioritize the responsibilities and see if there’s a way to delegate some to people other than YOU.
As a professional and a small-business entrepreneur, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed with all the things on my to-do list. Writing blog posts, publishing my newsletter, catching up with my clients, answering phone calls, the list goes on. Oh, yeah, and there’s my low-stress “day job” too. (If you’re new to the blog I’m a practicing full-time family doctor.) I finally wised up and began to find ways to recruit others to do jobs that don’t require my direct effort, so I can focus on the stuff that only I can do.
I used to produce my newsletter completely in-house. I had them printed at my local print shop, then brought them home and stuffed/sealed/stamped/mailed them myself. My epiphany came when my wonderful printer Rick at PostNet said “Dr. Jen, you know we can do all that for you. Your time is more valuable than that.” He was right! Since I outsourced to him, my income from my business has actually increased! I’m supporting a great local business and have more time to focus on creating great content for my clients.
For the tasks that truly require YOUR attention (i.e. no one else has the training or expertise to do them) you have to prioritize them. Schedule them. Focus on ONLY that task for a single block of time. Multitasking is a good way to screw up more than one thing at a time. Intense focus on ONE task at a time is the best way to get that task done right, the first time, in the minimum amount of time.
I find that one-hour blocks followed by a 10 or 15-minute break is my sweet spot for productivity. Yours may be different. Turn OFF the phone, close your door and put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign, close down your email server and Facebook, get rid of distractions and really FOCUS for that hour. You’ll be shocked how your productivity improves.
There are tons of great productivity books out there, but the ones I’ve read are basically reiterations of the same concepts. 1. If a task doesn’t absolutely REQUIRE your training and expertise to do it, you SHOULDN’T do it. 2. If you are going to do a task, you should schedule the time it needs and focus only on that task. Big projects should be broken down into one- or two-hour tasks that are easier to schedule.
Speaking of scheduling tasks, one major important task to schedule is DOWN TIME! I am not very good at that. I usually do at least a little work on SOMETHING every day. I’m getting better though! Russ and I are scheduling more date nights, and I’m getting better at enforcing my own bedtime, LOL! Making sure you’re taking time to recharge and spend time with friends and family is very important. Letting yourself get overwhelmed and burned out won’t help with stress management!
Keep an eye on your mood and sleep pattern. Do you find yourself grouchy and snapping at your staff and/or coworkers, or you’re not sleeping well? It might be time to consider whether the stress is getting to you. Medication and/or nutritional supplements can help you cope, especially if delegation isn’t possible (i.e. the boss won’t let you).
There’s much more information about the physiology and management of stress on this page.
QUESTION: How is stress affecting your life?