I am a busy guy. A really busy guy. People often ask me how I have time for it all. For a while, my answer was focus. For a while, I said that I didn’t waste time on things like TV. Lately, however, that level of focus and drive has started to take a toll.
If you are anything like me, you will take on virtually any project that you find meaningful, fun, or potentially profitable. Right now, I am on two non-profit boards (I am treasurer of one), have three small businesses, enjoy a busy social life, and, oh yeah, a full time job.
It is no surprise that I feel stressed every once in a while. In fact, it would be no surprise if I felt stressed every day. I can’t blame anyone else, though, I do it to myself. It is not anyone else’s fault that I traveled three weekends in a row. It is no one else’s fault that I scheduled my calendar so full that I have not had an evening off in three weeks.
I do that to myself. Whatever the stress situation is in your life, with some exceptions for your job and family situation, stress is something you create in your own life.
I have found that a big way to deal with stress is to set clear priorities. If I try to do everything, and do it all at once, I end up doing a bad job with everything and feel even worse about it.
To deal with stress, make sure you know what is at the top of the list. Whether that is in your personal life, your job, or a project, know what you have to get done first no matter what, and then move onto the next thing. Once you determine the order in which you plan to tackle your duties, you will most likely feel a bit less stress in your daily life. However, you may want to take additional steps to alter your schedule to fit in more easily with your priorities. For example, if you are working towards a degree while maintaining a career, then consider attending an online university instead. These schools allow you to schedule classes to your liking and offer a number of excellent degrees at the graduate level. To reduce unnecessary stress, make an effort to look for alternative routes based on the priorities in your life.
I have clear to-do lists that help me navigate the priorities. I have a to-do list at work that I use to stay on top of projects and monthly responsibilities. I cross things off as I go and re-sort it based on priority every few days.
Outside of work, I have learned that sometimes I have to say no to people. I like being involved with great events and organizations. I like to have a behind-the-scenes look into my community. However, I learned that I can’t do everything.
For example, in one non-profit I am the treasurer of the local organization and on the marketing committee of the international organization. I worked on a big project to hire a new staff person for social media and web focused projects.
I was asked to help with the resume and interview process. After working through the resumes and getting it down to our top candidates, I found I was not going to have time for a phone interview with multiple candidates. I said no and they thanked me for the help I was able to give up to that point.
It is harder to say no at work, but it is possible. Ask about the value of projects you are working on. If it is not very useful, maybe you can cut it. I have cut out a lot of the manual reporting I do regularly so I could focus on more valuable projects for my company.
When you are booked up almost every day, like I do to myself, it is important to schedule relaxation time and find out what helps you decompress. Here are some popular ideas for relaxation:
Exercise – Schedule time at least 2-3 times a week for 30+ minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I like bike rides myself.
Sleep – A good night’s sleep is huge for dealing with stress and living a healthy lifestyle. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Make sure you get it.
Diet – B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and bananas are known to help people deal with stress. A balanced diet is important. If you are looking for ways to supplement your diet, B vitamin stress supplements and 5-HTP may be helpful.
Alternative Methods – Massages, acupuncture, yoga, and hypnosis are all ways some people deal with stress. I didn’t find a massage very helpful, and acupuncture scares the crap out of me, but I have a self-hypnosis CD for stress that I do find helpful when I listen to it before bed. (Don’t knock it till you try it!)
Like with everything else in life, balance is key. Make sure you enjoy the activities and projects you have, but don’t forget to have time for yourself, time to relax, time for a hobby, time for a nap, or whatever else you enjoy doing.
Every Wednesday night, my calendar is blocked off for my favorite way to let loose of the week. I go on a giant bike ride around Denver. I also like to make time to go dancing at my favorite nightclub at least once or twice a month.
What Do You Think?
How do you manage stress in your life? What has worked well for you? Do you feel stressed out and not know what to do next? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.