Sitting in my office, I look out at the mountains from my 4th floor window. My head is in my hands, as my heart races. Thoughts pass through my head like a meteor shower; fast, bright, then gone. It’s Tuesday, and I’ve just come out of a meeting. No reality has changed; I’d just forgot on how to manage stress at work. That was enough to trigger the wave of complexity to hit me. Pondering my ways out, I take a deep breath. I know the way out of this feeling. That’s when I start to run through the protocol. Clarity returns. I know the natural next step. I’m reminded how to manage stress at work, and that’s when I can put everything back in it’s place and move the needle forward.
I review and re-define my areas of focus every year, usually in December. I think through each of my roles and how I can label it. I use this list to help inform and focus my attention. My list currently includes Director of Operations, Editor and contributing Author of Crafted.Design, Partner in a early stage venture, Father, Husband, leader at my church, and fitness enthusiast. Each and every role in that list is important. Together, each take up time in my day. So how do I keep it all straight? The art of managing extreme complexity first requires the realization of extreme complexity. You have to feel the pain before you have the conviction move forward. “We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full” – Marcel Proust.
You are not the only one that have this problem. The distractions in our life have increased exponentially. We are bombarded with messages, and notifications that pull us away from the real work. If you haven’t carefully designed your notifications on your phone, you probably see something pop up every 20 minutes. It’s impossible for our brains to focus with the distractions. Without focus, complexity starts to mount.
How to Mange Stress at Work
It’s a simple methodology. All that is required is a little focus on what has your attention. What has your attention, has the power. Realize you have to manage yourself and what has your attention. The only way to do that, is to clear your head and find a way to stay present to what it in front of you.
Capture – Process – Context
Oriented off the book Getting Things Done by Gary Allen, there is a simple 30 second trick that will bring you back to present. When something pops into your head, no matter what area of your life it falls under, find a place to capture it. Capture them all in the same list. This is not a to-do list. This is a process list.
At a pre-defined time in your day, take your capture list and walk through it, line by line. Each item will need to be clarified and thought through. If the item is actionable or doesn’t deserve your attention, save it somewhere or throw it away. When they are actionable and it takes 2 minutes or less, do it. When more than 2 minutes is required, delegate it to someone or decide to do it yourself. If you do it yourself…
Put it into the right context. When you are at the computer, in the office, you can’t remember the milk. When you are at home, you can’t email Jim the TPS report. Create lists for each context in which you work, and put your to do item there. This might be tabs in your notebook, a new note in your phone, or any other system.
Following these 3 simple steps will help you keep it all together. The true trick to managing complexity is presence. It is understanding what is essential and focusing only on that. Each moment has it’s own focus, and knowing how to manage yourself to serve that focus is the critical step. Implement this practice, and your mind will be clear as you pursue your goals.