Would You Like a Buggy Today Ma’am?

I love my life, I really do.  But this past year, despite being blessed with a dear and loving family, fabulous friends, and work that truly makes me happy, I’ve joined the ranks of the estimated 28.4 percent of Canadian workers who reported high work-related stress in 2015. 

Despite being the kind of person who loves variety and change, I am beginning to covet routine and jobs that have a clear beginning and end. Heck I’m even starting to think a job as a Walmart greeter is attractive. I think I could handle smiling and saying, “Good afternoon ma’am, would you like a buggy today?”


This change was made especially evident over the holidays as I’ve pretty much managed to ignore my to-do list. While I’ve half-heartedly started a number of projects, I’ve just found it difficult to gear up and would in fact be hard pressed to tell you exactly what I did do.

To be fair, in my case it may not be as much about the work as it is about the combined stressors this past year of a cross country move, the death of my father, a brother dealing with two major neurosurgeries, a mother and a mother in law with assorted health challenges, the opening of a new family business, work that involved a significant amount of travel, and a personal struggle with chronic pain as the result of a long ago workplace injury.

For many, rising stress could also be the result of increased workloads, however it may be as much about the ongoing onslaught of data and the fact that we are pulled in so many directions. Too often it seems we’re trying to do too much at the same time, dividing our attention, and never getting anything done well.

Regardless, once I had a few pajama days under my belt, I was able to get beyond my pity party and think about workplace stress and what I have done in the past to manage it, as well as what else I can do to keep it at bay.

Here are ten strategies I’ll work on to stay more balanced in 2016.

1. Timing is Everything

I’ve learned to do my most important tasks first thing in the morning. Before I even check my email, I’ll work for an hour or so with the only interruption being a quick trip to refill my coffee. Even though I’m definitely not a morning person, I’ve found the uninterrupted time allows me to be absorbed and productive so that regardless of how the day unfolds, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

2. Thinking Time

I’m going to establish regularly scheduled times for long term, creative strategizing. By blocking off time in my calendar for thinking proactively, I’m less likely to simply react to what somebody else sees as being most urgent.

3. Beware of Email

I’m also learning and encouraging others not to expect instant responses as it seems to force everyone into a reactive mode that makes it challenging to stay focused on priorities. It should be perfectly acceptable to only check email several times a day. Some pundits suggest checking it only once at the end of the day.

4. Energy Breaks

I’m also going to take more energy breaks.The experts recommend we should at minimum be standing up every twenty minutes. For those like me who work from a home office it’s much simpler, however more employers need to think about group walks, stand up meetings, workouts, or even just a room where people can go to relax.

5. Memory Stop Gap

If your memory is anything like mine there might be some holes in your bucket. I’m going to make sure I write everything down I need to remember -  ideas as well as tasks. I figure if I do that it will free up my mind for focusing on things other than trying to remember. While I’ve been using Google calendar for years to organize work tasks, I’ve just learned I can add other lists so I’ve set up a personal to-do list.  Hopefully it will help me focus on ensuring more life balance. Just adding things to the personal list has already made me feel better.

6. Short is Good

When I was younger I rarely used a to-do list. As a result my work habits were more of a shotgun approach. When I started using Google calendar for my tasks, I got more done but was always stressed because I never managed to get everything on the list done. Nowadays, I assign myself 2-3 tasks for each day. Getting them checked off makes me feel a sense of accomplishment.

7. Reduce the Clutter

When my brain gets stressed and overwhelmed, the odds are that my physical space is stressed and overwhelmed too. I’m working hard to keep my office space simple and decluttered.This simplicity makes it easier for me to focus on what truly matters in a more relaxed and focused manner. Unfortunately clearing up my office was one of my holiday projects that didn’t get done. I guess I’ll have to move that up on my priority list. 

8. Divert the Data

I’ve started taking a few minutes each month to unsubscribe to newsletters, blogs, listservs etc. especially those I often delete without reading. Filtering the less important data will make it easier to focus on my priorities and not be as overwhelmed by the never ending data tsunami.

9. Get ‘er Done

We all have tasks that bring out the procrastinator in us. I’ve learned that identifying and tackling even one of those tasks and checking it off the list is one of the best stress reduction strategies I can implement.

10. Disconnect

Lastly, it’s important for each of us to have time to chill during regular vacations or getaways. A real vacation will mean that when you’re off, you’re really off, meaning you disconnect – not even checking email. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if sometimes it means only getting away for the weekend. Research strongly suggests that we will all be much healthier as well as more productive if we take all of our vacation time.

Ultimately, there’s one principle underlying all of these suggestions. When you are engaged at work, it’s fine to be fully engaged for defined periods of time. However, work needs to be offset with time for renewal. And, when you’re renewing, make sure you’re truly renewing. I’ll try to do the same. 



Posted on 01-02-16


Outstanding knowledge. Really good post. thank you

•Posted by Lorena Chavez  on  01/02/16  at  11:57 PM

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