No matter what method you try, or what advice you take, if your brain is worn out, you’re going to struggle with productivity.
Many believe that stress is good – you have to get that adrenaline flowing to get anything done. But stress keeps your brain on red alert, firing neurons like pistons on the Space Shuttle and releasing all kinds of stress-related hormones and making you a really tired person. When your mind is tired, you’re not functioning at full capacity, and you’re sure to get behind. It’s ironic really, the harder you try to be productive when your brain’s worn out, the worse it gets.
Why Stress Management Doesn’t Work
Let’s be honest – stress is fear. If you reflect upon the things you’re stressing about, you’ll quickly understand that there are all kinds of things flying around that are scaring you. “What if so-and-so outperforms me?” “What if I don’t meet my deadline?” “Who am I if I can’t rise above my peers?” We like to call this “stress” because it feels bad to admit that we’re scared – really scared. Telling our friends “I’m so scared of failing” will get some awkward responses in our culture, so we say “oh, I’m so stressed out about ____. Pass me that martini.” And we all chuckle and talk about something else. Fear is weakness, so we call it stress.
Then we try to “manage” our stress, which is impossible – fear cannot be managed, it has to be dealt with directly. If you have fears about where your career is headed, you have to deal directly with those fears. If you have to be “the best” to feel good about yourself, you have some fear about other people’s opinions about you – you’ve got to deal with that one too. Stress management deals with symptoms, not the real problem.
The opposite of stress/fear is peace. If you want to be productive, you’ll have to learn to manage your peace, not your stress.
5 Fundamentals of Peace Management
1. Get some sleep. Cut down on the coffee, take a break from booze, turn the TV off, and crash. You’ll quickly find out that if you live with a lot of “stress,” sleeping won’t be easy – our fears love to crawl into bed with us.
2. Get organized. One of the things we stress about most is taking care of what my old boss used to refer to as “Your Rats,” those little things that gnaw on you, that can chew your leg off if you don’t deal with them. The best curriculum for this is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” I tried this and it saved a lot of peace. He’s got books, seminars, free advice, and it’s all very simple.
3. Learn to let go. There are things you can control, and things you can’t. Get a piece of paper and make two columns. Title the first column “Things I’m worried about that I can control,” and the second, “Things I’m worried about that I can’t control.” Use the system in Step 2 to take care of the things you can control. With column 2, you have to realize that worrying about things you can’t control doesn’t change anything, it only steals your peace, puts your brain on red alert, and makes you more inept at taking care of the things you can control.
4. Let people off the hook. When someone makes us angry, we tend to wander around like a zombie thinking of ways we can win an argument, or get even. Nothing will eat your brain’s reserves faster. To keep anger from sapping your productivity, you’ll have to get good at confronting, and when confronting’s not an option, try forgiveness. With regards to confrontation, check out the book “Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior,” and do everything they tell you. You’ll be surprised at how well it works, and how good your brain will feel when you learn to speak up in a way that’s honest and peaceful.
Not many people live like this. Facing our fears and organizing our lives in a way that’s best for our brains is no small undertaking. But it’s not nearly as hard as walking around day after day with a thousand monkeys on your back while trying to think creatively, boost your business, make money, and have fun.
But anyone can succeed at peace management. As long as you’re willing to read, talk to people who are good at it, and be persistent, you can step into a life that’s more peaceful, and infinitely more productive.
Featured photo credit: Matthew Kane via unsplash.com