Stress is a word that we are all familiar with and probably use regularly when life and/or work get busy. As a freelance writer and marketing specialist, work can come in fits and starts meaning that sometimes stress is a real concern as I try to get all my commissions completed on time and to a high quality. I haven’t always been freelance and even in the work place I often found myself a victim of piling my plate too high and trying to do too much, often leaving me feeling stressed and focused on what I could not achieve rather than what I had accomplished.
Whilst I don’t think work related stress will ever go away it is important to try and manage it as best we can.
Over the past twelve months of working exclusively as a freelance writer, I have had the chance to explore the ways I work which help me to reduce stress and through that I have found that I get more done.
QuickBooks, the accountancy package company, recently got in touch with me and asked me if I was interested in writing a blog post about handling stress as a freelance writer. I am a firm advocator of making work as enjoyable as possible and so I jumped at the chance to write this piece for you in the hopes that it might help reduce any stress in your workplace and thereby increase your happiness.
So, without further ado, here are some techniques I have employed to help reduce my stress levels within my working environment:
1. Working hours that suit me
For me, identifying the hours which are my most productive has had amazing results. I work from 8am to 1pm, have a couple of hours break and work again from 3pm to 7pm. Early afternoon is my least productive time when I get sucked into browsing on social media so by taking a break and then getting back into work at 3pm I can focus more on the work and therefore get more done. This helps my stress levels at the end of the day because I have usually ticked more off on my to-do list than I would have done if I kept to standard hours.
2. Having a supportive working environment
As a writer, a lot of my time is spent at a desk and as it is a job that requires imagination and creativity, it is especially important that I can work somewhere that I feel inspired as well as comfortable – this increases my willingness to be at my computer and therefore my focus on my work. I like a bright airy room, so I work in the sunniest room of my house; I always have a window open so I get lots of fresh air; I have plants on or near my desk and I also have little trinkets on my desk that inspire me such as antique books and a typewriter painting.
3. Finish when you’re ready to
I know this piece of advice seems to contradict a lot of expert advice out there, but I have found that if I am in the middle of a task when 1pm or 7pm rolls around, I cannot simply say ‘it’s break-time, let’s stop’ – I find that if I put an extra hour in to finish the task I was doing or at least to get to a more comfortable stopping space, I feel a lot happier and relaxed by the end of the working day. Cutting off abruptly because of the time can leave me feeling fretful about being able to pick back up again the next day, and it also means I take longer to finish it as my head may not be in the right place the next morning to continue the task.
4. Taking time back
This is linked to the technique above so made sense to mention next. If I have worked late the night before I always try to take some time back either the next morning or at some point throughout the day. This isn’t always possible to do immediately as I might have a big deadline looming, but I will always take some time back for myself after a busy period. This helps to ensure that I don’t end up spending all my time working, but have a break to rebalance my mind.
5. Exercise and diet
I know, I know, I sound like all the other health nuts out there who say exercise is great for stress relief, but believe me it works. I am not a person who naturally enjoys exercising – motivation for me can be a real problem, but I have found that when I do exercise of some form during my working day, my productivity goes through the roof. I follow the ‘little and often’ approach and do 15minutes of high cardio or strength training, followed by 15minutes of yoga. I find that by doing little bits every morning, I can fit it into my work day easier and I get into a rhythm which makes it easier to physically achieve.
These are just five techniques but I also have a few more, for example I listen to music as I work, soundtracks mostly, which helps me to focus on my work; I eat a vegan diet which helps me avoid the sugar highs and lows of a standard diet and I always spend ten minutes at the beginning of my day writing a to-do list – a realistic list which I then tick off throughout the day.
Managing stress in your working day is hard and it takes real discipline with your techniques to be able to stick to your plan and carve time out for yourself to work in the best way you can, but also to ensure you have time away from the workplace to relax. The best tip I have for you is to remember to put yourself first.
I hope these tips have been useful for you. Feel free to check out the QuickBooks Resource Centre for more information on how you can manage stress as part of their Stress Awareness campaign.