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6 Causes of Stress

Today, working professionals are running everywhere for work, family, home and social events. A big to-do list and not enough time to complete the tasks. Ever wondered, what happens inside our body during this time? On top of that, what happens to our body if we do this for many months and years? All this constant running around uses enormous amount of energy from our body. We go in stress mode. As Deepak Chopra said, “stress is a state of imbalance that is experienced by each and every cell in our body.” This means, we are putting all our cells in a state that is not desirable.

Why are we stressed?

Everyone has different stress triggers. Here are 6 causes of stress.

  1. Workload: Excessively high workload and unrealistic deadlines at work.

  2. Sedentary lifestyle: On workdays, we go through a routine from the morning starting from brushing, shower, breakfast and going to office. Then at work, we sit for most of the time and work in front of laptop or we are in meetings. At lunchtime, we eat our lunch, come back and do more work while sitting. When we come home, we take care of our family responsibilities. We eat dinner and sleep. Physical exercise is required for proper functioning of our internal body systems. If this does not happen, our body goes in stress.

  3. Sensory overload: In today’s world, we have busy schedules both at work and at home. In addition, we are bombarded with data from all sides. We browse through forwards, images and watch & listen videos on our smart phone. We face traffic and noises on roads. We have strong aromas and variety of tastes. This is called sensory overload. Sensory overload can result from the overstimulation of any of the senses. For 1 stimulus from the environment, our body has to go through 3 trillion calculations and this uses tremendous energy available in our body. Now, imagine the number of stimuli we are subjecting ourselves to everyday!

  4. Different roles we play: As working professionals, at home we play different roles of a mother, father, brother, sister, son and daughter. At work, we are either an individual contributor or a manager or both. We participate in social events. In addition, we are neighbors. Each of these roles comes with a set of responsibilities. If there is no proper understanding of these roles and there is no proper planning, we go haywire.

  5. Food: What we eat, how much we eat, when we eat, how frequently we eat and what is our state of mind when we eat – all these factors affect the internal workings of our body.

  6. Lack of physical exercise: Our body can produce energy only if we exercise. Our body is designed in such a way that it can help us, but it cannot help itself. For example, our hands and fingers help us lift and grab different things, but the hand cannot help itself. We have to help our hands by exercising. We have to take care of our body.

Stay tuned for my next article on powerful ways to handle your stress!

  1. Know how you currently use your time

    The simplest way to do this is to keep a log of what you do each day for a period time, let us say 1 week. Keep record of the task, start time, finish time and quality of end result. By keeping a log, you will become more aware of stress times and down times and will be better equipped to plan your tasks. With the log, you can identify time wasters or tasks that add no value. You will know how much time a particular task took; this will help you in future to estimate time for a similar task.
  2. Plan the night beforeSit down the night before and plan for the next day. Planning in the night gives your subconscious mind clear instructions of what is expected tomorrow. Remember 6P is “proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” Failing to plan is planning to fail. A major benefit of preparing your to do list the night before and writing down the tasks is that this exercise clears your mind and enables you sleep more soundly. This also mentally prepares you for the next day.
  1. Write down your plan with a pen on a paperSteven Covey says. “Writing is a psycho-neuromuscular activity and literally imprints the brain.” Writing your goals or action items down gives your subconscious mind a clear target. Writing helps you memorize it because you can see with your eyes. Writing also helps you to clarify your action items and lastly, writing creates space in our brain to think, otherwise the brain is overwhelmed with thoughts and information.
  2. Prioritize your to do listAfter listing the tasks, categorize them, set priorities and then work from a  prioritized to-do list. In the last article, I shared the time management matrix to prioritize. In this article, I will share 2 other methods of prioritization. First method is ABCDE method of prioritization (by Brian Tracey) and second is 80-20 rule.

ABCDE method of prioritization

  1. Place one of the letters from ABCDE in the margin before each of the tasks on your list before you begin.
  2. “A” stands for “very important;” something you must do. There can be serious negative consequences if you do not do it.
  3. “B” stands for “important;” something you should do. This is not as important as your ‘A’ tasks. There are only minor negative consequences if it is not completed.
  4. “C” stands for things that are “nice to do;” but which are not as important as ‘A’ or ‘B,’ tasks. There are no negative consequences for not completing it.
  5. “D” stands for “delegate.” You can assign this task to someone else who can do the job instead of you.
  6. “E” stands for “eliminate, whenever possible.” You should eliminate every single activity you possibly can, to free up your time.

When you use the A-B-C-D-E method, you can very easily sort out what is important and unimportant. This then will focus your time and attention on those items on your list that are most essential for you to do.

80/20 rule

The 80/20 rules states that 20% percent of your tasks are probably going to have 80% of the impact. By prioritizing the tasks that have the most impact first, you can let other tasks that may not be as impactful fall by the wayside or simply delegate them to someone else.

One way to determine the impact of your tasks is to think about how many people one task or project will affect.

Let’s say you are a marketer, and one of the tasks on your to-do list is to make a video that will reach 100 people, but the other task is to build a well-constructed newsletter that will be sent to a 10 lakh users. Which task will have the most impact? Because the newsletter will have an overall greater marketing impact, prioritizing it over the video makes the most sense according to the 80/20 rule.

5. Energy management (peak performance window)

All of us have peak performance times in the day, when we have most energy, most concentration and most creativity. Your “peak time” is your most productive time. For many people that time tends to be in the morning. By scheduling your most important tasks for the times you are at your best, you will be able to get them done faster and more effectively.

In the next article, I will share remaining strategies for personal productivity improvement.

Planning and prioritizing using time management matrix

This is how the time management matrix came into existence. Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States was a general of US army and he had to make tough decisions continuously about which of the many tasks he should focus on each day. He invented the urgent important matrix. Later on Steven Covey used this matrix in his book 7 habits of highly effective people.

In this matrix, there are two main criteria – urgency and importance on which you evaluate tasks. Urgent activities require immediate attention; important ones contribute to your mission and goals.

You will want to focus most of your energy on activities that are important but not urgent. This matrix is divided in 4 quadrants.

Quadrant 1: Urgent & Important

  • These are pressing activities that should be done right now!
  • They help you towards achieving your goals and they are to be completed  now.
  • For example: If customer satisfaction is your goal and a customer needs to have an order as quickly as possible, you better book the order right now.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent & Important

  • Quadrant 2 includes activities such as relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, planning, and prevention.
  • These are activities that help you towards achieving your goal, but they are not pressing. They can be done later.
  • People who spend adequate amount of time in quadrant 2 are most effective.

Quadrant 3: Urgent & Not Important

  • Things that need to be done now, but do not help you towards achieving your goals.
  • Consider delegating or automating these activities.
  • Sometimes you will have to do quadrant 3 activities, just make a conscious effort to minimize your time spent in this quadrant.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent & Not Important

  • These are activities that do not help you achieve your goals and also have no urgency.
  • There is nothing wrong with some mindless activity, just know that you could spend that time doing things that help you achieve your goals! Allocate proper time for such activities.
  • Consider delegating or automating.

Few examples of tasks in 4 quadrants are shown below.

In my next article, I will share strategies for personal productivity improvement!

Importance of personal productivity

What is personal productivity?

It seems that there is never enough time in the day. But, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others? The answer lies in planning, prioritising, creating and sticking to a plan and using all available resources and tools to your advantage.

Personal productivity is not just about checking boxes off your to-do list; it is about making sure you are getting the right things done, in the right time frame, in an effective way in all areas of our lives.

What is productivity? In simple formula, it is output divided by input. Here, output is quantity of results and quality of results that you produce. Quality is accuracy, completeness and consistency of your work. Input is your time, energy and skills. The results that we produce must be on time, in full and error free (OTIFEF).

To increase your productivity, you either need to increase the output or reduce the time it takes or do a combination of both.

Reasons for lower personal productivity

  1. Lack of clarity: We are not clear about our goals, if there is no clarity about the goals, our mind becomes confused and does not know where to focus. As a result, we can get very few things completed. This means we have not spent quality time to think about the goals.
  2. No plan: We don’t have a plan for our goals or have a plan that is not aligned with our goals.
  3. Lack of emotion management: All of us go through a plethora of emotions every day. If we don’t identify and understand our own’s emotions and express them at the right time, in an effective way with the right people, then we spend enormous amount of energy to address our emotions internally and this energy is not available to do any other work. As a result, we lose our productivity.
  4. Improper nutrition: Our body is designed to generate energy for us to think and nutrition is the fuel which is required in the right amount, at the right time and at the right frequency. The nutrition has a direct effect on our physical and mental energy levels.
  5. No exercise: Insufficient or lack of physical exercise. Our body can produce energy only if we exercise.
  6. Inadequate sleep and relaxation: According to national sleep foundation, adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night for their bodies and mind to function optimally.
  7. Doing it alone: Not getting help from others when absolutely essential. We must know our strong areas and our areas where we need help.
  8. Lack of tools: We do not have the tools and/or skills required to perform tasks.
  9. Not saying no: We do not say “no” to distractions that are not important to our goals.

Importance of personal productivity

  1. If work is not complete in time, there are missed deadlines.
  2. Missed deadlines create backlog.
  3. Backlogs and any incomplete work is a major source of stress.
  4. Everybody wants results. Personal productivity has a direct impact on the quantity and quality of the results that we produce.
  5. If we have high productivity, we can complete our targeted to-do list and we can spend more time on personal things and with family.
  6. If we have high productivity, we feel in control because our daily tasks are complete.
  7. With higher productivity, our stress level is reduced.

Stay tuned for my next article! I will share how to use the time management matrix.

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