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Are You Too Stressed to Be Productive? Or Not Stressed Enough?

Stress is like the ocean. Under the right conditions, stress can motivate you to do your best and improve your productivity, much like a sought after beach trip will. However, in the event of an overwhelming storm, motivation is lost and you are deterred. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Francesca Gino explores how to ride the wave to achieve the right amount of stress.

Head above Water

The Yerkes-Dodson law established this idea that performance is better when there is stress introduced, but only to an extent. Too much stress sends productivity shooting downward. Additionally, this law is influenced by both the familiarity and complexity of the task at hand.

Because of the relationship between stress and productivity, it is beneficial to be aware of the amount of stress you are under at your job. The Perceived Stress Scale was created by Sheldon Cohen, Tom Kamarck, and Robin Mermelstein to illustrate to people their current level of stress. The higher scores indicate a higher level of stress. Research has shown that a score around 13 is average and is the right amount of stress to be productive. Scores that are above 20 are indicative of too much stress, while a score below 4 shows that there is not enough challenge in the workplace. If your score is too high and you need to alleviate some stress, there are three simple ways to do so:

  1. Regain control.
  2. Seek opportunities to use your voice.
  3. Create routines.

It is often assumed that individuals in high-level positions experience a great deal of stress, when in actuality they tend to be fairly content. This is because they have a lot of control over what they do. Having a say about your position can help alleviate that unwanted feeling of being overwhelmed.

Research has indicated that people are too quick to conform to the norms of society. People experience extra stress when they feel like they are acting disingenuously. Seeking opportunities to voice your opinions in the workplace can greatly decrease this feeling of corporate conformity.

Humans not only like routine; they thrive with it. The data shows that individuals who have a pre-performance routine have improved self-confidence, and sometimes that is enough. The authors give these unlikely examples:

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts at every game; Curtis Martin of the New York Jets reads Psalm 91 before every game; and Wade Boggs, as third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, ate chicken before each game and took batting practice at exactly 5:17 p.m., fielded exactly 117 ground balls, and ran sprints at precisely 7:17 p.m. These rituals may sound strange, but they can actually improve performance.

Use these insights to better maintain your stress so that, to use another metaphor, you can feel the heat but also stay in the kitchen. You can view the original article (and the stress test itself) here: https://hbr.org/2016/04/are-you-too-stressed-to-be-productive-or-not-stressed-enough

About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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