Advertising
Advertising

Feeling stressed? Here are some recipes for slowing down

Feeling stressed? Here are some recipes for slowing down
Stressed

A handful of ideas to help you live your life and career with less stress and greater enjoyment.

Always move on.
“Move on.” These two simple words will save you more stress than any others I know.

  • Don’t dwell on your mistakes or other people’s successes. Don’t wonder “what if.” It will drive you insane. The past is past and cannot be changed. Move on.
  • Don’t corrupt your mind with jealousy. It won’t change your life for the better, but it will absorb time and effort that just might. Move on.
  • Don’t give in to guilt. It’s a worthless emotion. If you screwed up, admit it, apologize, and focus on not doing it again. Move on.

Take your time to find out where to head for and how to get there.
It’s easy to fall for conventional assumptions about what constitutes a “good career” or a well-balanced life. There’s no one-size-fits-all way of living that is satisfactory. What works for you may be quite different than the so-called “norm.” The only way you’ll find out is to spend enough time exploring your options and discovering what’s right for your specific circumstances.

Where you go matters less than whether it’s going to make you feel good about yourself. If you don’t, you’ll feel wretched whatever success you achieve in the world’s eyes. In fact, knowing that you’re a fraud playing a part that isn’t authentic to who you are will likely make you feel even worse.

Enjoy the ride as much as you can.
It’s fashionable today to encourage people to focus on their goals. There are two ways that can build unnecessary stress. First, you may set impossible goals, or find life doesn’t run your way, and end up convinced that you’re a failure. Secondly, too much focus on the future will mean you miss most of your life today.

Advertising

Life happens now. If your mind is locked into plans and dreams way ahead, you’ll spend the present in a fog, scarcely remembering what happened and enjoying very little of it. Whatever your intentions for yourself, your eventual destination is not yours to control. Might as well enjoy the ride, then you’ll have experienced something good wherever you end up.

Happiness, like sexual attraction, is all in the mind. Look for it there.
Most people assume that you need to get something first—success, power, wealth, the right mate—and happiness inevitably follows. Since everyone wants to be happy, they pursue these “bringers of happiness” with grim determination. Marketers know this and join in the fun by suggesting that every possible product, from a luxury apartment to a pair of jeans, is a sure-fire bringer of instant joy.

It ain’t so, of course. Happy people are far more likely to be successful as a result of being happy—and certainly more likely to have good friends and find the right mate—than successful people are to be happy simply through achieving some supposed success. There’s good evidence that working on cultivating a happy outlook on life first is the right path. Then, even if success doesn’t come, you’ll still have been happy. Making your happiness contingent on something—or someone—else means handing it over to events to play with. Much of the misery and anger in this world arises because people blame their misery on things or people that they believed would make them happy, but let them down instead.

Take it gently. Slow and steady usually beats fast and erratic.
The media, including the business media (and many bloggers), love whatever is dramatic: sudden breakthroughs, road-to-Damascus conversions, complete changes of lifestyle. In reality, such events are extremely rare and often don’t last for much longer than it takes to write about them. True and lasting changes are nearly always made up of many small, unspectacular steps, repeated again and again.

Advertising

Don’t worry if you haven’t yet made that elusive personal breakthrough or totally overhauled your career choices. As long as you’re moving steadily in the right direction, you’re doing better than most people.

Don’t rush to judgment or jump to hasty conclusions.
Your path through life is driven by many, many decisions, some big, most rather small. Chance and circumstances constantly change the rules for you. If you don’t change with them, a good many of these decisions will be taken on some incorrect basis. The passing of time is a wonderful way to sort out what’s true and what only looked true.

Today’s fashion for proving decisiveness by hasty, snap decisions is a foolish fad. Anyone can make a snap judgment. It takes courage, intelligence, and patience to make a good one.

Don’t go faster than you feel comfortable.
This is good advice for driving and living. If you can’t handle your vehicle safely at 75 miles per hour, don’t try driving at 90. You’ll be a danger to yourself and everyone else. One of the reasons why so many unfortunate teenage drivers kill or injure themselves and their passengers is that they drive too fast for their ability, often egged on by “friends” who dare them to go faster.

Advertising

It’s much the same in your life and career. There will be a pace that suits the way you are and your current levels of skill and knowledge. Going faster, even if the boss is yelling at you, is a recipe for more mistakes, greater stress, and greater risk of a real disaster. Never do it.

If you’re tempted to sacrifice some part of your life to get what you think that you want, make sure what you get isn’t worth less than the value of what you sacrificed.
People are always giving up something—relationships, family life, personal interests, even their health—as the “price” for gaining some longed-for goal, like a promotion, a fancy job title, a fat share-option package, or a seat at the top table. There’s nothing necessarily wrong in doing so, just so long as the benefits, when and if they come, are worth more than whatever you gave up.

Sadly, human beings tend to overestimate the value of things in the future, influenced by a combination of desire and rose-tinted spectacles, and under-estimate the value of what they have already. Make sure that your calculations of relative values are sound. Usually, there’s no going back.

Relax and take the long view.
Short-term success comes at a high cost if the result is long-term problems. It’s easy to be dazzled by immediate prospects or pressing concerns.

Advertising

When I was a child, and got upset by something to the point where I was losing perspective, my grandfather used to say: “Relax. It’ll all be the same in 10 years time.” Of course, I thought that was a silly statement, but time has proved it true. It’s amazing how many triumphs and disasters are forgotten in far less than 10 years; and how many times we look back on something and wish we had the power to change it, though it seemed like the most obvious thing to do at the time.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent articles there on similar topics include Always give yourself time and Stress-busters: How to worry less and live more. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.

    More by this author

    Have You Ever Wished Your Kids Will Beg To Do Their Chores? How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps 20 Things People Regret the Most Before They Die Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science Quit Your Job If You Don’t Like It, No Matter What

    Trending in Featured

    1 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

    Advertising

    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

    Advertising

    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

    Advertising

    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

      Advertising

      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

      Read Next