Stress is a big deal. It starts in the morning when you get up (and sometimes it wakes you up). If you have kids to deal with or a errands to run before getting to work, your stress level is already up. If you have to drive to get to work, add some more stress. If your boss is in the office, add a bit more. If you have deadlines or fires to deal with, add some more. Day over? Well, now it’s time to commute again, and get dinner, and maybe take care of kids or parents, and get another hour or two of work in, and then maybe go to bed right after checking your email for the last time (which you worry about and keeps you up a little longer). Then you do it again. It makes me stressed just writing these words…
If stress burned calories, I’d be a supermodel ~ Unknown
At Expedia I spent quite of bit of time managing people delivering software releases or managing production system and software operations. So, I know all about stressful jobs. The routine above was a typical one for me and I was definitely in the “stressful job” category. As I moved up in management things became more stressful too… there was just more on the line all the time. More people working for me, more projects and releases to get done, more business stakeholders, and more 0’s behind the dollar sign when we had a production incident.
Stress is definitely part of a corporate job at a technology company. It’s can be part of any job. So, here are my three simplest methods for shedding stress at work:
- Turn off your email & phone
- Use noise cancelling headphones
Let’s talk a little more about these.
Turn off your phone and your email
Doing this one thing reduces the stress in your life by removing the constant interruption that happens at work (have you heard of Chinese Water Torture).
Use noise cancelling headphones
Now, I’m not suggesting you listen to rock or heavy metal. I’m suggesting you listen to nothing or to comforting sounds (I prefer this thunderstorm soundscape). This has two magical effects:
- It reduces the amount of environmental input coming to your brain, making it easier to calm down and focus
- It communicates to other people that you do not want to be interrupted
Yes, hide. You can hide at home, you can hide at another desk, you can hide in a cafeteria, you can hide at Starbucks, you can hide in the lobby. There are so many places to hide! However, please, please, please do not hide in the bathroom. Other people want to use those stalls for their intended purpose and you’re just causing pain and suffering to others when you do this.
Hiding let’s you find a different work environment, which helps to stimulate your brain differently. It let’s you avoid interruption from walk-ups and your phone. It let’s you focus on your agenda instead of one imposed to you.
But… You skipped _____
Yeah, did you notice I didn’t say a word about easier projects or a new team/boss or confronting the source of your stress? I focused on eliminating the randomization that keeps you from actually applying yourself. There is no magic way to make a deadline or poor job performance or big problem at work go away. You can, however, control the methods you use to produce your work. And that is something we should all do more of.