Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Work/Stress Paradox

I thought I'd take time to write some more about how I finish work while reducing stress.  I believe that working quickly and efficiently doesn't have to cause stress, but it takes a lot of skill to separate the two.  I find that if I don't work quickly and efficiently, it's because I am stressed.  So instead of talking about how to finish that project, or perform your fitness plan properly (you know better than I would), I'll talk about how I work through my list of items and still have more juice for things that just come up.  Because they do.  

Here's a little refresh about what's going on for me this year, for those who have just started to read my blog, to put in context why I have no choice but to work efficiently.  I work as a sales engineer for a SaaS company and much of what I do involves interviewing and presenting to customers, as well as working with account executives to help present technically proper yet do-able solutions.  I might be looking over database diagrams one day, and mapping out customer politics the next.  I love this but it also can be incredibly draining.  The other facet of my life, new for  2012 involves competing for a sponsored rifle team while attending most national level precision rifle matches.  The season is only half over and I'll have logged about 15,000 miles driven and flow, with thousands of rounds fired in practice and competition.  I don't log practice hours, but I practice daily.  This combo in itself is a problem, but fortunately I've gotten a lot of solid help.  One has been an executive coach.  Thousands of dollars later, hundreds of hours I've spent examining what I do, here is my latest thinking which he's encouraged me to freely share.  I've just been very fortunate that he's taken me on as a client, and I don't take it lightly.  I'll be pleased to hear that this was help to anyone.  I don't have much advice to give, I'm still learning myself.

To figure out why we need to improve, we must look at where we're failing.  Here are some assumptions of "how to do things" articles that lead to failure (at least for me):

Assuming that you're fully control of what you're about to do.  I was on a sales call once and a VP of Sales told me that managing all his sales deals was like rolling bowling balls in the sand.  Wow.  The only things you're possibly in control of are your voluntary bodily functions.  Maybe not even.  At best you have some influence over an outcome.  The freedom of realizing this, allows you to be a little more objective about your work, yet have the emotional bandwidth to not appear detached or cold.

Not discussing the importance of following up as a step in itself.  I buy things that don't come overnight, sometimes it takes months.  If I don't have a good way of following up on them, they slip through.  Or even at work, when I ask for documents from customers, and it comes time to present and I'm missing details, whose ass is it?  I don't like to look like a fool, and when I do, there are witnesses.  Follow up needs to be placed in its own category.  It's probably one of the easiest ways to differentiate yourself.

Assuming that one method of handling work items, works for everything.  It's like thinking my pocketknife works well as a screwdriver, up until I get a real screwdriver, or lose a finger. There are lots of articles that say, use this ONE method for doing things.  And I get it, they assume that people can only practice or use one thing.  And that's only true with sight.  You need to collect all your things to do in one place, but there are many ways to work through them.  You don't approach your kitchen remodel the same way you would with going through a stack of paperwork, but you feel like you should.  No you don't have to.  But you need to see that both the remodel and the paperwork are things you need to do.  They both have to be in front of you in some way.  If you don't know what's going on with one of them, that will stress you out.

Thinking that you can work at 100%, or even better yet 110% percent, or even worse at 110% because someone (amateur mathematician) claimed you should do so.  It's been said that the best factories work at around 80%.  Well why can't you work them at 100% and get maximum output?  Because things break, things come up.  Just like you.  You're not a factory, but do not be seduced into thinking you're special either.

Lastly encouraging readers to think they're special.  And relying on hope.  The paradox is that: when one is done thinking of themselves as special, they can actually start doing things that are special (or noteworthy).  As in not being off-putting to members of other than the Millennial generation.  You will need their wisdom, guidance, and personal introductions.  I say this as being a so-called Millennial.

I want to leave it here after developing the problem a bit.  The next article in this series will begin talking about fixes for this.  Noodle on the above, and ask yourself, are there other failures that we need to look at?


Anonymous said...

I think the best part is that you identify factories work at 80%.

Living in Silicon Valley, I think we all want to be at 110% all of the time.

This leaves us with stress, burnout, anxiety, and family problems.

jowdjbrown said...

I'll talk about how I work through my list of items and still have more juice for things that just come up. Because they do. mindfulness mavericks

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

I know you'll do well" in curbing the exam stress! There isn't a way out of these desperate days. And there isn't really a short cut either. But the best part is that each one of us will always get to see a smiling face and will get to hear an enthusiastic 'All the best' from someone at some moment. John Nolan