Great decision-making comes from the ability to create the time and space to think rationally and intelligently about the issue at hand. Decisions made during periods of panic are likely to be the ones we want to forget about.
The Productivity Ninja realises this, remains calm in the face of adversity, and equally calm under the pressure of information overload. You might not believe this, but it is entirely possible to have a hundred and one things to do and yet still remain absolutely calm.
How do we beat stress and remain calm? Here are a few basic principles:
Use Your Head, Don’t Use Your Head!
Be sure that you’re not forgetting important items by keeping all of your support information in a proper system, not in your head. Be sure that you’re not distracted and stressed by what you could be forgetting, by simply using a system instead of your own head as the place where information and reminders live.
This is certainly easier said than done, but once mastered, really works.
Trust Your System
You need to trust that whatever system you decide to use will work. There is a danger that additional stress will be created by the uncertainty of not knowing whether your system will help you deliver.
Moving to a new computer or new software brings with it a few days of uncertainty, but many people live for years without ever really asking themselves if their systems work to the point that they really trust them to work. Sticking to what you trust and trusting what you stick to are crucial.
The way to foster this trust and promote the total calm you need is to regularly consider not just your work, but the process of your work. Briefly, but regularly reviewing how you work will help you to promote clearer thinking in the work itself.
Lower Your Expectations. Seriously.
Realise that you’ll never get everything done all at once. That’s not the game anymore.
Be safe in the knowledge that you’re in control, selecting the right things to do, and that you’re doing as much as one human being possibly can. This definitely does not mean ‘don’t be ambitious’; it does mean that if you have a sense of ambition, you’ll probably experience times in your life when you have more on your plate than you can physically do. What you need to know once you get into this situation, is that you physically can’t do it on your own. Once you recognise this, there are three things you can do:
- Worry about it and beat yourself up with stress.
- Identify a ‘route through’ – work like a horse until you get to the end, keeping sane in the knowledge that you’re moving as productively and effectively as you can.
- Get some help. Hire someone. Call in some favours. Delegate. After all, many hands make light work.
I’m a fan of numbers two and three, but I see number one far too often when I’m working with people. The truth is that worry, stress and negative thought patterns are intensely tiring and completely unproductive.
Keep Your Body in Good Physical Condition
Keeping fit and healthy will not only reduce stress, but will also give your brain the focus and energy it needs to produce clearer thinking and decision making, that will enable you to stay on top of your work. It’s a win-win-win!
Exercise that increases the flow of endorphins to the brain, eating protein-rich foods like nuts, beans, fish and chicken and, cutting down on your use of stimulants like caffeine, will all help you regulate your attention span, stay happy and promote a positive outlook and thinking.
Sometimes clichés are clichés because they’re so true.