How can I reduce my stress? (Part II)

by Sam on May 27, 2009

Analysis: As you saw in last week’s brief we are actually focusing on the concept of Margin (from the Richard Swenson book by the same title) rather than stress.

Margin is the reserve we have to deal with the challenges thrown at us by a difficult world.

Swenson quantifies margin as equaling power minus load.

Power results from how we live our lives. It stems from our actions, emotions, and thought processes. It’s what we do either to recharge our batteries or to drain them.

Load is the numerical accumulation of the physical, emotional, and psychological demands made on us by our jobs, our families, and the rest of the people and commitments we sign onto.

Answer: Last week you learned strategies for boosting power. Now let’s focus on what you can do to reduce your load.

1.   Beat procrastination. Putting things off actually consumes time and energy! Make one of these ideas work for you: Start your workday by doing the task you most dread. Find an accountability partner who’ll call you each day to confront you about what you’re avoiding. Follow the 24-hour rule of taking at least one small step toward everything marked critical on your to-do list. Make your deadlines public so that you’ll be more embarrassed to miss them.

2.   Keep a great calendar and priority system. Find appointment and task scheduling tools that work for you. Whether they be paper- or electronic-based, reduce your worries and your workload by avoiding the trauma of missed appointments and blown deadlines.

3.   Create a better relationship with your boss. Working for someone who you don’t respect is one of the most oppressive factors at work, particularly if this causes you to act in counter-dependent ways. I have coached more than one manager who needed to hear a message that was hard to accept. Here goes: The Bible calls upon us to submit the authorities placed over us (Ro 13:1-7). These managers (and you) have four choices and two of them are good: continue to rebel (bad); avoid your boss as much as possible (bad); quit (better that the first two choices); submit (good). Every manager I know who has submitted–so long as it didn’t violate their principles–was happier in the long run.

4.   Simplify your life. Understand the difference between needs and wants. Cut back on the expense and complexity of your lifestyle. Reduce the amount of “stuff” and the number of gadgets in your life. Buy fewer items that plug in or require batteries. Don’t look for contentment in the arms of technology.

5.   Leave work stress behind. When you come home at night—hopefully not too late—leave your shoes at the front door to symbolically separate from the stress producers in your work. Change out of your executive “uniform” immediately. Write a story of the rigors of your day into a journal at the end of the day.

6.   Disconnect from naysayers. You may not believe this, but if you hang with negative people long enough, you’ll turn into one. If you have good but depressing friends that you can’t bring yourself to shun, set limits on them. “Sure I’ll have lunch with you today, and let’s make a deal. The complaints you have about your boss are off limits this once. OK?”

7.   Confront toxic people. You probably work with someone who challenges you. This person may demand too much, drain your time, antagonize you, make you look bad with others, or behave in a dozen other nerve-rattling ways. It may be time for you to tell that person: “Get right or get out!”

8.   Dissolve grudges. Don’t waste time and energy placing blame on others or asking, “Why did this happen to me?” Holding a grudge drags you down it the eyes of others, makes you unhappy, and saps your power. As someone once put it, “Holding a grudge is like taking poison hoping the other person dies.” It’s also like burning down your house to kill a rat.

9.   Enlist allies. Some people rely on scores of instrumental relationships at work to ensure their success. If there are currently people in your network with whom the road has gotten bumpy, pull the rocks out the relationships that are causing the bumps. Sit down with these people and find out what role you may have played in letting the relationship sour and what you can do to help sweeten it.

10. Delegate. Very few executives make the best use of their assistants. Ask this question of yours: “What ideas do you have for how you can help me be more efficient and effective?” Delegation works at home, too. If you have children, are they doing their fair share of the chores? It may be time to buy your life back.

11. Automate. Take advantage of every efficiency afforded you by modern technology. For instance, take a class on how to take full advantage of the timesaving features of your computer and its software. Do your email on PDAs and cell phones from trains, airports, and the back seats of taxis.

12. Negotiate. Talk to your boss about your workload. Can you make a compelling case for having some of it redistributed to others in order to achieve better corporate results? Talk to yourself about your career. Can you make a compelling case for lowering your career goals a notch or two in order to reduce the pressure?

13. Eliminate. Every manager is doing at least one thing that if eliminated wouldn’t harm his or her success in the least. This might be a habit or ritual that uses time without providing much return. Or it might be a once significant responsibility whose time has passed. Ask colleagues if they notice anything in your behavior that fits these categories.


Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. ~ Helen Keller

Approaching: Is there a “coming attraction” on this list that you can’t wait for? Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a sneak preview.

6/3: Do I inspire ethical behavior in others?
6/10: Do I operate from a clear code of ethics?
6/17: Why do people fight?
6/24: How can I keep fights from breaking out?
7/1: What is the best way to fight?
7/8: When (and how) should I step in to break up a fight?
7/15: What are the most inspiring quotes about leadership?

7/22: Is “constructive criticism” an oxymoron?

Action (yours)

Do you have an Ask for Sam about leadership, team building or communications? Email that question to him at He will respond to you either by email or telephone. Please include your telephone number with your Ask.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>