Stress is something that most people will experience in their lives at some point and so following a request for listener feedback to the show, I want to share some of your calls and have a short discussion about the subject.
Call In from Scott
Thank you, Scott, for your call in. It raises some interesting points.
I think we have to keep in mind, as you suggested, that the nature of our society has changed. Given the way in which so much of our existence revolves around the need for money to provide for food and shelter, a threat to our job security as an example could feel very much like an elephant strolling through your garden if you were an early farmer.
I agree that some things perhaps stress us more than they should, but other things certainly trigger those responses you mentioned with some justifiable cause. And on the breathing matter, I found it interesting in my research for fitness trackers how this is becoming a focus feature for many new models.
Call in from Mike
Thank you, Mike, I can understand how you get stressed out by what you shared.
Chatting to my wife she raised the following points or techniques she has been trying and which I am looking to apply.
My wife uses her smartphone as a great way to organise her tasks for the day.
Hold a ten-minute meeting with yourself each morning where you soulfully search what you and those around you, need you to do.
As far as possible, focus on one task at a time in a mindful manner. Often we do things just going through the motions.
You can say that multitasking and not taking stock of what needs to be done is how we can drop the ball on some things.
I think something else we can do is to reflect on and put into perspective things that may or do stress us. Decide before hand how you will react to some situations. So as Scott mentioned, being cut off in the traffic, decide how you will react in a nonaggressive way so that you are in more control when the situation arises.
Recently I am finding that engaging in physical exercise is a great tool for managing stress. It helps to exert some of the energy you may have wanted to use in a confrontation to something personally beneficial. It is not good to go from day to day with building stress.
Physical exercise can also help you to sleep better and increasingly we are learning of the incredible importance of getting enough sleep. Getting too little sleep is not a bragging matter. You are not cool for getting less rest than the next person in the office. It is dangerous on so many levels including increased rising risk of heart disease.
Lastly, I want to suggest talking to someone you trust. This is important in two ways I think. Firstly, you are not keeping these things locked up inside you. Secondly, you may gain a better perspective on your stresses when you unpack them with someone else.
Let me make a confession, I have been working on a different topic for this episode for a few hours and kept interrupting the preparation thereof with many distractions. So I have decided to change the topic to that of distractions.
Internet Black Hole
If you have had a blog or tried to write a book you may have a great deal of experience with the internet black hole. It goes something like recalling that there was this really cool statement you heard on a podcast earlier in the week. You go looking for it to make sure that you quote and attribute it correctly in your blog.
The first podcast you check out that you thought the statement was made in proved to be wrong. Then you think it may have been in a Ted Radio Hour podcast about a related topic. You find it is not in that episode either, but you try Google the key word and TED to try to find the video on YouTube. This sends you to a very interesting video on the same subject but not the one you were looking for.
You go put the washing on while still listening to the video as it finishes and autoplay starts another video that interests you. Since you skipped a few minutes while doing the washing and the visuals used on the TED stage, you go back to the start of the video.
You pause the video to check a WhatsApp message that has just come in. Because the video in the link shared on that group won’t play properly (why do media sites have such bad video players on their own sites. YouTube is still king of the hill by a million miles for adapting quality to bandwidth) you go looking to see if the video in the news article shared on the group is on YouTube and find another video or two that interest along the way.
Eventually, you chat yourself two hours later and return back to your blog post beating yourself up for getting to easily distracted.
Another common distraction in the workplace is in the stable diet of work communication, Email.
You are busy with a task in response to an email when you notice an email has come in from your boss. You open it up and read through it. You decide to respond quickly.
As you return back to your task you see a reply back to your reply from you boss again with another task. You judge that it is not as urgent yet as your current task so leave that email open to handle later and again try to resume your current task.
You are just getting back into the groove of the task when another email comes through, or a colleague comes to your desk to ask about the email from the boss that you intend to come back to later. The day just continues.
There is also the alternative where you are doing a task that is important but not urgent right now yet you think you should try to get ahead of the load so you kick it off. The trouble is that you really dislike the task and so you actively respond to any email that comes in looking for other work to take you away from the work that you are going to regret not getting done sooner when there were fewer demands on your time.
Another distraction is the office chit chat. It is amazing how quickly we will pick up on some points of conversations and wish to contribute to the discussion when we feel like we are the only one not a part of the banter and are just focused on our work.
They continue to be a necessary evil in the workplace, but it fascinates me how some people can complain about having to attend meetings and then dominate them with issues or raise topics not really on the agenda.
Sometimes we can look to meetings as a great time killer to get us to lunch if we can just get them to last 30mins longer.
What to do
There are many other distractions I am sure, the man issue is what to do about them. The simple method is to work on our self-control but let us be real, that is never going to happen over night.
The human mind is perplexing at times. We feel a great sense of accomplishment and get a shot of feel-good when we complete a task but somehow, we easily forget that feeling in the moment a new task approaches us that we particularly dislike. It seems sad but in many ways, the brain easily recalls the negative and unpleasant but requires much more active policing and engagement to replace those recollections with positive experiences such as the feel-good at the end of the completed task.
Speaking of a podcast distraction… oh wait, I have another distraction. Just one moment please, the washing is finished…
Um, as I was saying about podcast distractions. There is a TED Radio Hour podcast that looks at decisions and how basically people make up stories to help them believe they have actively made a choice when many decisions are pre-decided or even engineered for us. The example given by Dan Ariely in his TED Talk is the changing of a form from opt out or opt in and how many people never read or tick the box. When asked why they decided on their choice, they share some compelling story to justify their supposed decision.
How does this apply in distractions you may ask? Just like I know that if I leave cookies on my desk, several people will help themselves before I return from a bathroom break, we can review what things easily distract us and rather than leave the temptation there (like the cookies on the desk) actively look for ways to remove these distractions.
For example, there are applications to lock down your browser for certain periods of time or you can close down Outlook for 30mins while you just focus on a task. Put your phone on silent with it only set to ring maybe if your wife calls.
Don’t just focus on the negative though, reward yourself for a solid period of focused effort even if the task is not yet completely done. You may also find techniques like the Pomodoro Technique helps you get focused and more effective at completing a task.
In the end, you want to try to avoid getting to the end of the day and feeling like you accomplished little because you were so easily distracted. Such a distracted routine wil not help your confidence in the long run.
(Find last week’s episode of Work Wednesday here.)
I was going to chat about lessons I learned from a movie I recently saw, but in chatting with my wife this evening, I came to a realization that there was a much more relevant topic to speak on this evening from a personal perspective.
It is an expression that you will hear from many people, that “Business is about Relationships.”
It is actually alarming how often then, that companies take this for granted. The most important relationship in many ways is the customer. The goodwill built with an existing customer makes increases the chance of repeat business in a massive way. Trying to win new customers or get clients to return after a bad experience is extremely costly and difficult.
The relationship with the customer is built by sales teams and after sales teams. It is also established and maintained by your actual product to the consumer.
There is a saying that “you are only as good as your last sale”. Think on that. I am in an environment where that often seems to be the case.
Example of Sam
From a consumer perspective, I have had a great experience with customer sales and service recently.
My family, due unforeseen circumstances, have had to return back home to South Africa while I continue to work in Nigeria. Since we had sold our car back home before we moved to Nigeria for my current employment, it became necessary to purchase a used car again.
With the help of my dad, we found a good clean car that was still in our budget. The car is a little Kia which seem to be extremely resilient given what I have seen of them here in Nigeria, but the dealership is a Honda dealership about 30km from where my family currently live. I was a little worried about what the experience would be like, after all, I am buying this car from Nigeria with only my dad seeing.
The salesman, a great guy by the name of Sam, has continued over the past few months, to go above and beyond with this car. It has had an ongoing niggle with the electric windows and on a few occasions has gone back to them while waiting for parts to come to resolve the problems.
Each time, they send a loan car, drive it out to the family 30km away and pick up our car and do it all over again. Again, for the price we paid for this car, I really did not expect this service.
I have yet to meet Sam in person, but I know that between him and this Honda dealership, I will certainly get my upgraded car from them. I am sold on them and not the car we got, and it was not even the brand they regularly deal in.
I have gotten a little sidetracked. The point of the discussion I had with my wife is that your personal network and the quality of those relationships is extremely important in your work life, be that as an entrepreneur or an employee.
As a teen, I walked into a little camera repair center and asked if they would teach me how to repair cameras – didn’t ask for pay though they offered a nominal fee per camera which fed my photography habit. (I must add that my mom helped me get the courage to go ask them to teach me at that young age.)
The owner of that business spoke highly of me to the owner of my favourite camera store in Johannesburg which got me a part-time position working there. That workplace connected me to many industry people which helped me in both the companies I co-founded in the future.
After serving a two-year, volunteer service mission for my church, I applied to a few jobs. I got one with a startup company as a salesman and later the sale manager. That is to date at least, the only job that did not have some link to someone I know or was part of my network.
This is a critical point, and I think many people will find the same is true for them, that their best chances for change and/or success come through people they know.
Business is about people and the relationships you keep with them.
Lastly, there are some relationships that I would hope we never take for granted in the search for our business relationships and that is family.
Those who have worked away from their family for periods of time I think will mostly agree, it can be extremely lonely. That said, I see people all the time who may as well be away from their families they immerse themselves so much in their work and networking. There is always a cost to every choice we make. Try to better understand those costs and make the more right choices more often.
(Catch up on last weeks ‘Work Wednesday’ podcast here.)