Most of the readers coming to Lifehack.org are looking for ways to become more productive, create cooler, better stuff, and make sure that they have some sort of work/life balance. What tends to happen during this process is that when we are trying to create things, we sometimes get stuck.
Some call it confusion. Others refer to it as “the fear”. Regardless, this bump in the road is all about traveling over the gap from ideas to reality and happens to all creative people at some time or another. This gap from ideas to reality is something that can be handled. Here are 7 ways you can get started.
Outline and Act
Sometimes when you are paralyzed and just can’t get any of your ideas started you really just don’t know what to do next. Being the productivity geek that I am I feel that there is nothing that can’t be solved with outlines, lists, or mindmaps.
So, sit down, brainstorm and outline your ideas on paper (or, of course, your favorite digital tool), pick one single, clear, next action, and then act on it no matter what.
Copy and/or steal
I’m not a total Apple, Inc. fanboy, but there is one quote from Steve Jobs I find interesting:
“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”
This is good when you have an idea that others have already acted on. For example, if you want to start the next great gadget blog like Engadget, then copy what Engadget does. Don’t copy word for word from their articles, but write about the same things that they are writing about.
Copying can help you get over the initial fear of getting started, then as you work on your ideas and plans more and more you can become more of “your own”.
A prototype is a “first or preliminary model of something” and creating one can free you up from the inner voice that says “you can’t create something”. Creating a simple prototype of your idea, whether it’s a website, webapp, iPhone app, physical product, etc. you get an idea of what it will take to make your idea a reality.
By creating this first “throw-a-way” model of your idea, you can show yourself that you can bring your thoughts to fruition.
Brainstorm with outsiders
There is nothing better than getting fresh ideas when you are at a road block. Talking to people around you that aren’t involved in your business or ideas can give you a super fresh perspective.
Also, you can obtain some fresh criticism that may make you rethink your idea and shape it into the thing that you need to move forward.
If you are one that says that you are always too busy then it’s no wonder that you can’t get started on your ideas or projects. If you have a great idea and you want to make it happen but can’t find the time to get it done, then you need to focus.
The only way to make sure that you can make your dream a reality is if you have the time to do it. Therefore, you need to cut something out that is less important. There are a fixed amount of hours in a day, but you are the one that has control of what you can and cannot do with those hours.
So, either find the time and get started or ditch the idea. It’s that simple.
Identify fears and then smash them
If you are trying to start a business or something on the side of your “traditional job” you can have a host of fears. Instead of just letting the fears linger and then try to start your idea, you could try to identify them and then smash them.
Write down everything that you are afraid of and then try to come up with the reasons that you are afraid. Nine times our of ten you will find that your fears aren’t grounded in reality. This can be the kick in the pants you need to get started on your idea.
Expect everything less than perfection
Even with the best idea, a solid 5-year plan, outlines and project plans, time, money, etc., your idea won’t be perfect. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.
If you go into the creation process of your ideas expecting perfection, you will be defeated in the first day. Instead expect nothing. Work hard and create what you want. Then make it better. And after that make it better.
It’s this type of iteration and constant improvement that make good ideas great and allow you to get started without the burden of making everything great at day zero.
Motivation is a tricky thing. Mostly because it all comes back to yourself and your choice to do something or not to do something. All the tips and tricks in the world are no good if you don’t use them and then chase your ideas. So, if you have an idea that you are not starting on, stop looking for advice, try one of the ways to get started above, and then make your idea a reality.
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.