5 Surprising Ways to Reduce Stress

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October was Attorney Wellbeing Awareness Month, and you probably found that most of the conversation was about how attorneys can increase their well-being through some kind of stress management program—whether it’s a meditation/ mindfulness program, a vacation, or personal or corporate wellness/ exercise programs to reduce the symptoms of stress.

While it’s critical to address and manage the symptoms of stress, if you only address the symptoms of workplace stress but not the causes, there’s a good chance you’re going to be relapsing every time you come back to that stressful environment. Increasing productivity can give you more time in your day and you’ll feel less stressed! Here are five things to do:

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Check Your Style.

There are things you may be doing in your work/leadership style that are potently impacting your productivity and effectiveness. Are you a perfectionist, redoing and reworking ad infinitum? Are you holding onto projects rather than delegating? Do you feel it’s just faster to tell your associates, “Do it this way,” rather than spending the time to train/coach them to become more self-sufficient (the “directive boss”)?

You’d be surprised at how much time these efforts take. By way of example, I have a client who felt overwhelmed and stressed out. Examining her day, she found that she was spending two to three hours a day being a “directive boss.”

How does this impact her? Take those two hours a day and in a week, that’s 10 hours, or 40 hours in a month! Over a year (40 hrs x 12) that equal 480 hours and based on an eight-hour day, that’s 60 days or two months of your work year! Imagine what your personal and professional life could look like if you had just half that time back—30 days!

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Prioritize.

This is about how you’re managing your work from a time/energy perspective. Ask yourself: How much energy am I allocating to things that are not the most productive use of my time? Are there projects, responsibilities, and/or meetings/calls for which my participation may not be essential? I may not need to handle? Are not priorities? Are causing me a high degree of stress but not a lot of results? Or may be delegated to an associate/direct report/peer?

Say No to Multitasking.

Another surprising find is that multitasking can have a negative impact on productivity. We’re actually not as effective and are not able to do as quality work. You can be up to 40% less effective! Pay attention to the task at hand focusing on what completing the project/email, etc., before switching to something else, and minimize distractions.

Take Breaks and go to Lunch.

I bet if you’re super busy, you’re saying you don’t have time! Believe it or not, studies show that taking breaks during the day can actually improve your performance and boost your productivity! Noted in a Fast Company article, the Draugiem Group, a social networking company, using the time-tracking productivity app DeskTime, found that the “10% of employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else. In fact, they didn’t even work full eight-hour days. What they did do was take regular breaks. Specifically, they took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work. Employees with the highest levels of productivity worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose, then rested up, allowing their brains time to rejuvenate and prepare for the next work period. “

Jennifer Deal, senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and Affiliated Research Scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at University of Southern California, says that, “In reality, taking time away for a lunch break can help to reduce stress, increase engagement and restore energy levels, making employees feel more effective and productive back at the office.”

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From neuroscience perspective, taking a break—even if it’s a five-minute walk around the office or taking some deep breaths—will allow your body to clear out some of the clutter in the brain and reduce stress. What seems to take away time from your work actually gives you greater productivity. Plus, you may have insights and find solutions and answers to problems that you were struggling with before the break!

Avoid Distractions.

How much time are you sneaking in on social media, reading tweets, FB, LinkedIn, Snap or Instagram, or fitting in just one (or two or three) quick videos or video games? Take note of how much you may be resorting to distractions and take a that five-minute break away from your desk instead.

Increasing your productivity may necessitate doing a deep dive into your work, your workload and your work habits to determine whether or not there is additional time in your week! Remember, even getting an hour back a day can have a huge impact! Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen, JD, CPCC, PCC., is an executive coach and attorney. She is certified by CTI and International Coach Federation and is an enhanced practitioner in Conversational Intelligence (CIQ). She focuses her coaching on senior executives and lawyers in law firms and corporations to enhance their professional impact, build high-performance skills and cultivate wellbeing and resilience. Prior to becoming a coach, Ellen spent 20+ years as an entertainment attorney at Disney, Showtime, Sony, Fox and Microsoft. She received her BA from Brandeis University and her JD from Emory University School of Law. To find out more: ebccoaching.com or linkedin.com/in/ebccoaching.

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