You have a massive project due in less than 48 hours. Your new intern keeps asking you a million questions about Outlook, how to create invoices and which social-media post is appropriate for your brand. You keep getting texts from your mom about getting together for dinner over the weekend. You took your dog to the vet this morning because he was throwing up after eating something from the trash.
No matter the professional or personal cause, stress plagues us in our work lives from time to time. It’s challenging to feel — and actually be — productive when so many anxious thoughts are swimming in our minds at the speed of light.
Stress can make versions of ourselves we never want to encounter. We may get so overwhelmed that we forget an important staff meeting. We may make a client unhappy because we can’t juggle all of our projects. Our relationships could suffer because we don’t know when to work and when to relax. We could experience sore muscles, heart palpitations, upset stomachs, illnesses and sick days.
Here are some tips to feel productive when you’re anxious and allow you to work smarter:
1. Take a break.
If you are starting to feel like you’re on the verge of a panic or anxiety attack, take a quick break.
Take several deep breaths. Get something to eat to help your sugar levels remain normal and your anxiety at a minimum (honestly, be sure to eat, even at your busiest times). Take a walk around the block or do some yoga in your office. Establish “no-interruption” zones or timeframes during your workday.
In one study, “Finding Time, Stopping the Frenzy”, employees who experienced quiet time during their workdays found that their productivity in the morning increased by 59 percent.
2. Prioritize your work.
If you’re working on a major product, be sure to leave enough time to create content and work on the project. There’s nothing worse than waiting until the last minute. Of course, spur-of-the-moment projects can and will arise in your workplace, but if you’re prepared, it will lessen stress.
Always expect the unexpected, but try to not stress out about the unknowns. Scale your work tasks from 1-10, with one being not timely and 10 being the most time sensitive. Know what is a “crisis” and what can wait until tomorrow. In today’s digital age, everything could be perceived as urgent, but you can be your own gatekeeper.
3. So, be your own gatekeeper.
Sometimes, people’s requests can wait until later. Don’t be afraid to only check emails at certain times and silence your phone. You can take only the calls you need to take. If you have a chatty friend sending you text message after text message, calmly explain that you will text or call her when you have a free moment at work. Don’t feel pressured to adhere to other people’s schedules.
4. Talk with someone about how you can be more productive.
Talk with a mentor or someone you trust. If you feel like you can’t have a productive day, then talk with a mental health professional near you or online. Talk with someone on a site like betterhelp.com, which can help find solutions to your mental health issues wherever you are.
5. Know when to quit for the day.
Keep your work time and personal time separate. Sometimes, intermingling must occur, but you can increase your productivity if you know when to quit for the day.