“There has been a marked increase in workplace stress in every country, industry and job type, to the extent that it is now higher than at any time in the last four years,” said Dr. Rena Rasch, research manager at the Kenexa High Performance Institute. “High stress levels increase absenteeism and decrease productivity. For individuals, stress causes sleep deprivation, headaches, high blood pressure and greater susceptibility to illness, which lowers well-being and increases the chance of burn out.”
– And this was in January 2012! 🙂
Yup, we are living in some pretty stressful times. And especially us working in/with the startup community! I like this scene from “The StartUp Kids” movie saying (describing entrepreneurs): “You’re never having a good day. You are either having the best day ever, or you think you are about to die” (see trailer). So try dealing daily with these crazy geniuses… while fighting your own emotions at the same time.
For me, whenever I’m doing something passionately (like I am now in my PM job at Okapi), I feel for every single thing in all my projects. I get upset when the developers deliver a layout where there’s a button not aligned as it was in the design, I get frustrated when the client changes his/her mind so many times that drives the team crazy, I get angry with myself when I feel I could have managed the project better :). So as exciting and awesome my job is, it is equally stressful and exhausting.
So how do you find the right balance? How do you learn to cope with (or diminish) the stressful moments, and focus only on the positive aspect? I’ve been reading a lot of time management related books/articles, trying to find The Answer :). I recommend:
- “Work to live. Don’t live to work. – Why the 9 to 5 rule is broken”, by Sean Kim
- “Manage your day-to-day” book by 99u.com
- Smashing Magazine article by Yannis Konstantakopoulos on how workaholism is often confused with hard work.
But everything is so personal… So I’m just going to tell you what actually works for me:
1. Find your own small daily / weekly routines in this chaotic environment, the “stones” that keep you grounded and sane. For me it’s small things like: going to the gym twice a week; eating a super-healthy and consistent breakfast every morning (breakfast of champions 🙂 ); taking a sip from a delicious cup of coffee right before opening my Inbox; and even starting my Sundays with a small recap of the important things I need to do during the next week.
2. Take time to do nothing. This is a hard one, because I love learning new things! One week-end I wanted to be lazy and do nothing, and ended up seeing 2 documentaries about bees and researching on why they are in danger. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I actually bombarded my mind with new information instead of just lettings it rest for a little while… In order to “cure” this, me & my boyfriend started the “family day” tradition on Saturday, meaning that we hang out together and do nothing work-related. It’s refreshing (and helps our relationship)! And I also started a trial with GetSomeHeadSpace – meditation for modern living, taking 10’/day to breathe in, breathe out.
3. Be emphatic, put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. It’s hard to remain calm when things don’t work as planned (e.g.: the designer keeps pushing the deadline, the developers delivers a layout with so many obvious bugs, or the client rushing things and changing specs), but take a step back and just try to understand what is causing these changes. Is there anything you can do to help? (e.g.: improve communication, provide more detailed specs, better understand the product/service and the market needs)
4. The power of Excel. I am a pretty organized “freak”, I love lists and one of my top skills is to bring order in. This is my way of helping everyone in the project know what their tasks are, their priorities and deadlines. And it also helps me getting a better, more in depth understanding on the project status.
5. Get involved in adjacent activities. Share knowledge & thoughts with your peers, go to conferences, mingle, and read blogs! For me, the feeling that “I’m not alone in this” keeps me going forward. I bet I’m not the first or the last person in this field dealing with this.
I hope these are useful, but remember that you just need to find the routine that fits you best. Who knows, maybe you don’t even have Excel installed 😛 . I’m really interested in knowing your top 5 list, so share your thoughts in the comments below!