If you are reading this post, I know you are interested in hacking your life — but what exactly does that mean?
Every month or so, I get together with a group of like-minded businesspeople in Managua, and we discuss our latest projects, triumphs, failures, and sticky situations. The hours I spend with them are some of the best times of each month. Get a group of go-getters together and the theme of leveling up and achieving/striving/trying will creep in somehow.
Our last meeting, though, was different.
I’ve noticed a shift in my go-getter friends. We all want to do great things and live great lives, but we’re also tired. No longer were we talking about projects and business models. Instead, we discuss running ourselves ragged without creating a worthwhile impact.
The words I heard over and over again were freedom, family, and time. In essence, we all want to level up, and have more freedom, more family, and more time.
How can we hack our lives to get more of those: freedom, family, and time?
1. Seek Out the “Hell yes!”
There are so many decisions we make each day, but few of them inspire us to throw our hands in the air with excitement. What if we were to use that reasoning to guide us?
A fun new client? Hell yes!
A useless meeting? No, thanks.
Dinner with inspiring peers? Hell yes!
Mind-numbing tasks? No, thanks.
Seeking out the “hell yes!” in every decision injects serious energy into every moment.
Noticing exactly how I feel about each incoming opportunity and task helps me navigate my decisions and stay true to what makes me feel awesome.
2. Do more of the good
Each and every day, I know what I should be adding to my life. I love to write when it feels like nobody else is around, no phones are ringing, and emails are blocked off. If I want to add more of that every day, I can choose to schedule it and stick to a writing schedule that feels great.
Doing more of good stuff will feel like adding extra layers of awesome to your life.
What activities would you do more of if you had the choice? What can you do to achieve that?
3. Do less of the bad
Very similar to what I described above, there are activities that I long to partake in much less. Personally, the administration piece of my startup makes me feel drained and worried (even when we’re doing well). I will always have to oversee that activity, but I learned to significantly diminish my involvement by delegating straining tasks.
Doing less of the bad stuff in your life will feel like avoiding so many traps!
If you could choose to dump parts of your life, what would they be? Can you take some small steps to achieve that tomorrow or the next day?
4. Divide your life in two
Every single action and activity in our lives falls on either side of a line. I use the line to divide my life into two areas: that which feels liberating and that which feels limiting.
Working from home? Liberating.
Taking on a picky client due to economic needs? Limiting.
Waking up early to write in privacy? Liberating.
Doing weights at the gym when I’d rather be running? Limiting.
Keeping more of my day on the side of “liberating” opens me up to feeling free and joyful.
What do you find liberating in your life? What do you find limiting? You can use that personal information to judo chop your decisions.
5. Focus on the process
I am not going to lie to you. I sit on the fence about goals and striving for better in my life. Setting goals most definitely helps me find direction, but sometimes I stress out way too much about the end result. Lately, I’ve offset that stress by trying to focus more on the actual process of achieving anything. When I’m running, it’s easy for me to start daydreaming about the beach body I want — but why not focus on the actual running instead?
By focusing on the process, I let go of the stress to achieve something and I have a lot more fun with what’s going on in the actual moment.
Workplace stress is a modern epidemic. More than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress. This is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year in lost work hours and medical bills.
Clearly, if you’re suffering from work stress – you’re far from alone. But, work stress isn’t inevitable.
In this article, I’m going to help you identify the root cause of your stress and suggest the most suitable ways to cope with job stress so you can become a happy and productive worker again.
Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. The causes of stress include:
Too much work – you feel overwhelmed by your work and find yourself saying: “There are not enough hours in the day!”
The job is too easy, not challenging or inspiring – this is where boredom (which is stressful) sets in.
Pressure from co-workers or lack of social support – colleagues are not helpful or only care about their own tasks.
Little praise and lots of criticism – this is where a lousy manager uses constant criticism to ‘try’ to motivate you.
Very demanding or competitive working culture – sales departments often fit this category.
Not having enough control over job-related decisions – this is when people try to micro-manage you.
High expectations on yourself or seeking perfection – while it’s good to do your best, being a perfectionist can be a powerful stress generator.
Low salary – if you work hard but receive slim financial rewards, you may start to feel downhearted, frustrated and stressed.
The Negative Effects of Stress on Your Mind and Body
Chronic stress is bad news for your mental health and physical health. These are some health symptoms of stress:
If stress hormones are triggered in your body for extended periods, they can lead to increased physical aging. This is because stress makes your cells look and act older – and this is reflected in your physical appearance.
In addition to the negative effects on your body, stress also has a significant influence on your brain – negatively impacting your daily performance.
I recommend you watch the 4-minute video below to see just how stress can wreak havoc on your brain and your performance:
How to Cope with Work Stress (A Step-By-Step Guide)
You don’t need to be a victim of work stress. Here’s how to manage stress in the workplace:
1. Set aside some time for planning
If work has become too much for you, and you’re constantly falling behind… stop! Instead of trying and failing to catch up, you’d be much better off spending some time thinking about your goals and how your prioritize your tasks.
For instance, if your initial goal is just to get on top of your work (probably for the first time in months), then take 10 minutes to think clearly and deeply about how you can achieve this. Most likely, you’ll be able to come up with tasks that you need to complete to reach your goal. And once your goal and tasks are clear in your mind, you’ll be ready for the second step.
2. Align your tasks with your goal
Just knowing your goal and associated tasks is not enough. Many people reach this stage but still fall behind with their work and fail to achieve their goals.
The secret is to understand which of your tasks should be high priority and which ones can be done when you have spare time.
For example, checking your inbox every 20 minutes may seem to be a productive task for you, but in reality it acts as a constant distraction and productivity killer. Instead, you’d be better off setting aside 30 minutes in the morning to check your emails and 30 minutes in the afternoon to do the same.
By doing this, you’ll free up the bulk of your day for tasks that can help you reach your goal. These tasks are likely to be things like: writing a business proposal, creating a PowerPoint presentation, and finishing an important project.
How to tackle specific work stressors? I recommend the following method that WellCast introduced:
Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. At the top, write remove in the first column, change in the second and accept in the third.
Next, think of the stressors that are getting to you the most. Perhaps it’s your paycheck; it might be way smaller than you’d like or feel that you deserve. Don’t worry, this is your chance to break free from the stress surrounding your low pay.
To try to change your salary by asking for a pay rise
To accept that your salary is okay for you
You may be surprised at what thoughts come into your mind. Don’t reject them, but allow yourself time to be clear on how you’d like to proceed.
If the status quo feels good to you, then write “paycheck” in the accept column. If you decide you want to increase your salary but stay in the same company, write “paycheck” in the change column. And finally, if you decide the time is right to seek a new opportunity at a different organization, then write “paycheck” in the remove column.
By being decisive in this way, you’ll immediately feel freer and in control of your destiny. And your stress levels will begin to trend downwards. All that remains is to set yourself a clear goal of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do this.(Luckily, steps #1 and #2 above will help you out!)
Of course, if you have multiple work stressors, then use your remove, change or accept sheet to work through all of them. It will be time VERY well spent.
4. Create positive relationships at work
One key to improving your ability to manage stress is being able to accept help from others. Not only does it alleviate negative circumstances by simply distracting you and creating a buffer between daily tasks and their negative connection, it will provide a sense of support and relief.
Make an effort to create friendships with your colleagues. Go to the after-work happy hour or just ask a colleague out for coffee at lunchtime. Not only will you have someone to confide in, but you will start to associate positive feelings to work.
Forming a healthy relationship with your manager or supervisor is also a good way to alleviate stress. Positive, two-way conversations about where you stand in your job, being honest about how you feel, and working together to make a plan of action in terms of improved work conditions and expectations are paramount. This will lead to opening up and receiving the necessary resources you need to support or help you.
5. Take time out for yourself
Anyone can get overwhelmed when stress occurs at work, and this can spill into other areas of your life. This is why it’s important to clock out mentally from your job from time to time.
Take time off to relax and unwind in order to regain your energy and come back to work invigorated. Make sure you actually do something you enjoy like spending time with your kids or partner, or visit that country you’ve always wanted to explore.
If taking time off work isn’t possible in the midst of your stress, take scheduled breaks throughout your day. Sit quietly somewhere or do some stretches to get your blood flowing like in the example below:
6. Take mindful action towards your health
The irony of stress is that your healthy habits can take a backseat. Maintaining and even improving your health will keep your stress under control. Here are some ways to keep you physically fit:
Eat healthy foods. Make sure your diet is full of foods that provide your body with sufficient nutrients. Eat more fruits and green vegetables, whole foods, omega-3 rich fish, and seeds such as flax, chia and hemp. These types of food ensure your body is working optimally to cope with its stress mechanisms.
Avoid unhealthy foods. This is obvious, but it’s these kinds of food you reach for in times of stress and negativity. High fat foods such as cheese and red meat cause sluggishness and tiredness. Foods high in refined sugars like biscuits, chocolate bars, and bread can be convenient snacks, but they cause you to crash and burn. Same with caffeinated drinks such as coffee and sodas – these are just ‘band aid’ habits that interfere with your ability to sleep.
Exercise regularly. Endorphins are the best for counteracting stress, and what better way to release them than doing physical exercise. Exercise creates a distraction and helps you get your thoughts back together in an orderly way. Start a new exercise regime – whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or walking to work. Getting your blood and endorphins flowing will make you feel happier.
Everyone encounters stress at work. It’s a natural and normal human reaction. The difference between letting the stress overcome you and coping with it is getting a head start by creating a positive environment and lifestyle.
Counteracting stress is both an inside and outside job. Focusing on improving your health will create a positive mind able to react better. Forming positive relationships with certain people around you will give you emotional support.