3 Steps To Managing A Stressful Work Day

When was your last work meltdown? Unfortunately the occasional stressful day at work is pretty much unavoidable.

With so many modes of contact, numerous meetings, deadlines and interruptions, it’s a wonder we’re keeping it together at all in the workplace.

A few weeks back I arrived at work and within half an hour was already feeling quite stressed. Emails were pouring in, people were dropping by my desk and our internal chat tool was going into overdrive.

So what did I do?

I stepped away from my desk

When you’re drowning, it can seem counter intuitive to drop everything and walk away. But this is by far the best tactic when you're feeling overwhelmed at work.

Go to the bathroom, grab a glass of water, or walk to the cafe and pick up a coffee.

This will immediately create space in your mind (I usually remember an important forgotten task during these times) and give you perspective. On this particular day, sipping a glass of water in the kitchen reminded me to go back to my desk and then...

I made a brand new to-do list

I realised I was likely stressed as I had not quantified where I was at and had not planned my day properly.

If you do no planning, you’re easily caught up in minutiae and distracted by interruptions.

You turn back to your desk after each interruption and wonder ‘where was I?’.

Once I wrote down what needed doing, I could drop the ‘crazy busy’ act and realise that yes, I had lots to do, but it was going to be manageable.

I did however have to recognise that maybe it wasn’t all going to be managed and completed today.

This meant I needed to regroup and then...

I used the Pomodoro technique (AKA you can’t do everything today)

I’m not completely strict with the Pomodoro technique but I take on its high level ideas.

The concept is that we all have peaks and troughs during the day and we can’t expect ourselves to work at 100% capacity, 100% of the time.

The Pomodoro technique quantifies this as 25 minutes of work on one task followed by a 3-5 minute break (preferably away from your desk).

I’m also looking forward to getting a copy of Alex Ikonn, Mimi Ikonn and UJ Ramdas’ new Productivity Planner. The planner looks great and advises you to only pick 3-5 important tasks for the day and structure the work day around completing those in the short Pomodoro bursts.

The idea that you’ll only complete 3 tasks in a day may scare people at first but, in reality, your time is best spent ‘single tasking’ these important items, rather than multi tasking small, less important tasks and basically only keeping your head above water.  

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed by stress at work? Let me know in the comments below and share this post if you think it will help others.