More books have been written about stress management than any of us could ever read. Consultants, psychologists and psychiatrists have made their living on helping others deal with stress. While a myriad of tactics and tricks can help us manage stress at our jobs, one simple action is often overlooked:
There's no stress in being early. This small yet important tip can significantly reduce your own stress, and it also shows those around you how to act when work heats up.
Think about these scenarios and see if you can apply them when it comes to managing the stress in your job:
• If your schedule requires you to be in the office at 8:00 a.m., show up at 7:40 a.m. Those extra 20 minutes will give you time to settle in and get organized before the pressure really heats up.
• If the meeting starts at 10:00 a.m., arrive at 9:50 a.m. Use those extra ten minutes in the meeting room to collect your thoughts, get in the right frame of mind, or take a moment to check your Blackberry.
• If your one-on-one with your boss is scheduled at a regular time each week, show up five minutes early so you’re already there and ready to go when her door opens. Consider using your extra five minutes to talk to the boss’s assistant, creating a relationship that pays dividends.
• If your presentation is due on Thursday morning, organize your workload so you can deliver it the evening before, eliminating loss of sleep and anxiety on Wednesday night.
• If you’re responsible for providing end-of-year performance reviews, don’t wait until the week right before the review to get started. The last week will always be the most stressful, and your feedback won’t be nearly as constructive if you rush to provide it. Set a plan ahead of time for how you’ll tackle the written reviews. For example, if you need to review 10 employees and you have four weeks before in-person reviews, aim to complete two to three written reviews each week. A bit of planning and organization can go a long way when it comes to reducing your stress levels.
• If you’re faced with a meeting across town that starts at 4:00 p.m., think ahead about your commute time. Without traffic, you could make it in half an hour, but who knows how long it will take when a lot of vehicles are on the road. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, even if you risk arriving earlier than necessary. It’s worth the time you’d otherwise spend fretting about arriving late. While most of us despise sitting in traffic, in this case, it can be turned into time to think, relax, or catch up on a few phone calls.
Combined with other stress management tricks that work for you, looking for opportunities to be early is an effective way to keep your cool. And don’t forget that the people around you—your colleagues, staff, and maybe even your boss—look to you as an example of how to handle moments of pressure. By incorporating the “there’s no stress in being early” approach, you’ll help your workdays move more smoothly, both for you and for everyone else.
Rusty Rueff, director and career expert for jobs and career website Glassdoor.com has been a CEO, led HR in global companies and is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business.