Shifting Stress from Workflow Obstacles to Productivity

When it comes to getting the most out of the day ahead, one of the most common things standing in the way is stress.

Not only does stress pose a significant risk to our health — affecting the immune system and our mental health — but it can also have a real impact on our productivity.

The Importance of Stress Reduction

Managing and reducing our stress is extremely important for these reasons and it is therefore vital that businesses work to consistently maintain a low level of stress across their workforce, putting good mental health at the very top of their company’s concerns.

While this is true, the truth remains that even the most caring, successful, nurturing and stress-free workplaces are always going to present some inevitable workplace pressure that can lead to stress.

What we do with this remaining stress is therefore what’s important.

Harnessing Stress for Productivity

After all, research suggests that with the right tools, we can harness our stress in positive ways, transforming back into productivity.

And it makes sense. The Harvard Business Review challenged its readers to think about a time when they’ve been most successful and productive, whether that was their university dissertation, a transformative project or even a tight deadline.

They then posed the question: was stress a part of what motivated you during this?

The answer is most likely to be a ‘yes’, highlighting the potential value in the stress we experience to act as a driving force as we get stuff done.

So, whilst avoiding stress altogether is the first step in remaining happy and productive, learning to reposition our perspective when it comes to inevitable stress, and transform it from aggregator to motivator, can be pretty helpful all-round.

Acknowledging Stress

The first thing to do when it comes to harnessing stress a little better is to actually acknowledge that it’s there.

Only once you’ve accepted its presence can you think about how to use it better – a decision has got to be reached. Is this going to be damaging or empowering?

According to Alicia and Thomas Crum in the Harvard Business Review, this is a fairly important one, citing that ‘owning this realisation unleashes positive motivation — because deep down we know that things that are important shouldn’t always come easy’.

Repositioning Our Relationship with Stress

Once we’ve recognised that we can actually – with a bit of work – change our relationship with stress, and see it more as the force behind us as we challenge ourselves, not only does our perspective change but so do the physical effects too.

According to positive psychology expert, Shawn Achor, we can see improvement in our brain function just by reframing challenges as positives. The more positive and curious we are as we look at an upcoming project, the more our brains can expand, allowing for faster processing and increased productivity – just by thinking of stress as a byproduct of success, not failure.

Stress as a Driving Motivator

The experience of stress was never supposed to be a negative thing. In fact, going back thousands of years, stress was a helpful tool to keep us on our toes (and therefore improve our success) in moments of danger.

And whilst the physical effects of stress can feel like they don’t quite translate as well in the modern world, that’s not quite the whole story.

In the past, adrenaline and cortisol may have helped avoid danger to ensure survival but it’s crucial to remember that in the modern-day world of work, these hormones still have plenty of benefits.

Alicia and Thomas Crum further explained how stress hormones not only give us the energy we need to be successful but actually release chemicals into the body that can rebuild cells, synthesise proteins and enhance immunity, leaving the body even stronger and healthier than it was before.

This effect, coined “physiological thriving”, is undoubtedly valuable when it comes to pretty much any project – neolithic or not – at hand.

Don’t Overcome Stress, Use It

A lot of the process when it comes to transforming our stress involves repositioning how we think about it – realising it as a support in our success rather than an obstacle.

This all comes down to positivity, and as we all know, the people around us really can make all the difference.

Adapting our mindset means positioning ourselves around people who can listen to us and support us, avoiding those who complain, and focusing on what cannot be changed.

Abandon Perfectionism

It’s a popular and accepted fact in the eyes of many of the world’s most successful business leaders that perfectionism is more unproductive than not.

After all, striving for an unattainable goal isn’t going to get you any closer to any actual achievements.

If you put the work in and keep doing your best, soon enough you’ll start to see that your stress will only motivate you to do better.

Shifting Stress for Maximised Productivity

With that in mind, ignoring what you can’t control and focusing instead on what you can is a better positioning of the motivation and energy you have, whatever the task.

All in all, whilst workplace stress should be managed carefully by your business, occasional stress is something that we all come to face during our careers.

Focusing on our perspective and relationship with stress when we can will not only make the process feel a little less taxing but could also dramatically boost your productivity.

Want more Productivity Hacks, check out our fantastic productivity guide here.

TL;DR Key Takeaways

  • Stress can have a significant impact on our health and productivity, making stress reduction important.
  • Research suggests that with the right tools, we can harness our stress in positive ways, transforming it back into productivity.
  • Acknowledge the presence of stress and decide whether it will be damaging or empowering.
  • Reposition our relationship with stress by seeing it as the force behind us as we challenge ourselves.
  • Stress was originally a helpful tool to keep us on our toes and improve success.
  • Positivity and support from people around us can help transform stress into a motivator.
  • Abandon perfectionism as it can be unproductive.
  • Focusing on our perspective and relationship with stress can boost productivity.