The majority of people polled said they are more stressed today than they were just a few years ago. Nobody needs to convince you of that. Demands from family, work, money, and a dozen other factors can stretch us to the limit if we don’t know how to eliminate stress. The list of stress-related health problems ranges from mild headaches to ulcers. Your very health depends on managing stress, because we all have it.
Bank presidents and owners of multiple companies deal with immense pressures, and still make time for family, hobbies, and things they enjoy. So how do they do it? Most effective business people simply cannot eliminate the pressures that often result in stress. What they do learn is coping mechanisms for managing stress.
7 Steps to Effectively Managing Stress
Effective daily planning can eliminate many of the stressors in your life whether employed or self-employed. Here are some tips to get you started:
Step 1 — Determine what stresses you.
Stop right now, take 5 minutes, and think about the major causes of stress in your life.
Don’t expect to solve the problems now; just write them down. Before you can eliminate your stress, you need to understand what responsibilities and external pressures cause it in the first place.
Step 2 — Examine the efforts you have made, if any, to eliminate these stressors.
Have any of them worked in the past? We often forget how we successfully coped with problems before when facing them again. Go with what works.
If you’re like many people, your days are a patchwork of commitments to work, family, and the community, with little time left over for you. Rather than reflexively respond to each demand, take a minute to consider each one. Ask yourself the following:
- Is it reasonable?
- Is it realistic?
- Are there steps you can take to make your commitment less stressful?
Step 3 — Identify your weaknesses and respond to them.
Do you try to pack far too much into one day? Do you have a hard time saying “no” to unreasonable demands? Are you chronically tardy in meeting deadlines? Realize that you are causing your own stress, and change your behavior accordingly. Stress doesn’t come from the pressures we face. It comes from how we react to them.
Step 4 — Assess the urgency.
When a situation is on the verge of becoming stressful, stop and ask yourself:
- “Will this matter in a week?
- Will this matter in six months?
- What’s the worst thing that can happen because of this?
- Is it worth jeopardizing my health over this?”
- Is this important to me to do right now, or is this someone else’s priority?
Someone once said, “I know that worrying works, because everything I worry about never happens.” Silly? Maybe, but the fact is, the vast majority of the things that we worry about simply never happen they way we feared they would.
Step 5 — Communicate the reasons for your shortcomings.
Since most of us would acknowledge living stressful existences, we can certainly understand the stress of others. If your financial reports are late because the printer broke, communicate with your client who is waiting for the report. If you showed up late for an appointment because you locked your keys in your car, explain the reason.
People tend to be more forgiving if they understand why you were unable to follow through on your responsibility. By the same token, use your failures as a basis for improvement. If this is the third time this month you’ve locked your keys in the car or the printer is inoperable because you never learned how to fix a paper jam, it’s time to address those problems.
Step 6 — Streamline your day so that you accomplish more.
Think about how much time that goes to waste every day. Some of it you can do something about and some you can’t. Focus on those areas where you can make change by improving yourself. Then think about what’s important in your day-to-day living, and focus on those tasks.
To streamline your work, you need to determine where others rob you of your precious time. If you find that your time is robbed by endless “hey you’s” all day, set some ground rules. Take command of your time by pushing back when appropriate.
Step 7 — Prioritize your work.
Each day, plan your work based on what is the most important to get done that day. When distractions threaten to consume the time you have planned for the most important items on your list, write them in your planner and assign them a lower priority. You now have captured the “to do” item so that you won’t forget it, but you have not allowed it to distract you from what you really want to accomplish. If someone drops one of their hot priorities on you, let them know that you have captured the “to do” item, and once you get the most critical things off your list, it’s next. That way, they know that you haven’t dropped the ball, and hopefully they won’t bother you about it again.
If your boss is the one that dropped the task in your lap, ask them politely if they would like to move that priority in front of the tasks that you already had planned for the day. This serves a couple of purposes. First, your boss doesn’t feel that you are pushing back; they will respect that you want them to set the priorities. Secondly, you set the stage for them to realize that if something doesn’t get done, it isn’t because you are not working hard. You simply worked on what they wanted the most. This proactive approach is far preferable to dealing with why things didn’t get done after the fact, when your legitimate reasons may be interpreted as “excuses”.
Pressure You Have to Live With, Stress You Don’t
With the best of planning, life will still place demands on you. Some of these demands are time-sensitive, the natural reaction to which is to stress over them. Pressures won’t go away as long as there are tasks that need to be done under a compressed time scale. Through prioritization of the demands placed on you and strictly working on the most important things first, you at least ensure that the things that get done are those that must get accomplished.
If you don’t get all of your daily tasks crossed off, you are about normal. But so what, most of us don’t get as much done as we would like. Focus on those things that will have the greatest impact on your life and you are doing the best you can. Make every effort to forget the rest . . . at least until you have the time and ability to do something about them.
Reducing stress will make you more effective at all of the things that you CAN get to. Stress is just another form of fear, and fear is a paralyzing force in a person’s life. You may work well under pressure, but be assured that none of us work well under stress.
Learn How To Work Effectively and Get More Done
The best way to cope with stress is to get things accomplished and off your list as quickly as possible. In running your own accounting and tax service, you need to be as efficient as possible, using the most time-efficient ways to get things done. The Professional Bookkeeper™ program teaches you methods perfected over years of practical, real-world accounting and tax experience. And because the best-paid freelance accountants are paid by the task, not by the hour, whether you make $30 per hour or $60 is determined by your efficiency. The Professional Bookkeeper™ program teaches you well-honed methods to get accounting tasks done in less time so that you can get home sooner or service more clients and earn more money.
Learn More About the Professional Bookkeeping Program