June 2, 2021

What is Stress?

Merriam-Webster defines stress as to cause or experience physical or emotional tension. It's not an object we can put in our hand or pour into a glass. It's felt on an emotional level, but it can be just as real as a punch in the face. A lot of people are talking and writing about stress these days. A global pandemic will do that.   

You have family and career and health and finances and deadlines and all the other items on your list called your life. The layers seep into each other and affect the results of everything. If you're stressed about the health of a loved one, your work is probably going to take a second seat. If you have financial issues, your family may suffer.  

Real or Imagined? 

You have a deadline for today. A client is waiting and it absolutely has to be delivered. That's stress. Add to that, your boss has called you four times to remind you of the deadline and adds revisions each time. That's added stress. Your partner calls and your child is sick. Then the client calls and wants to ditch the whole idea and start over. That's about when you're ready to throw your laptop. 

I have mentioned this several hundred times on this site, but if I talk about self-inflicted, self-doubt, or self-stress, I know of it only too well. That's where we get into the weeds, as my business partner would say. The client has changed the scope, the kid has the sniffles, and your boss has added useless additions to the deck that is now scrapped.

Reversed Delegation 

A former boss walked into my office one morning just to say hi and see how was I doing. He could tell I was stressed. He asked me what the issues were and if he could help. I admitted I simply had too much on my plate and I didn't want to miss a deadline. 

I usually have a written to-do list next to my laptop and he asked to see it. He grabbed a pen and started putting a line through a lot of the items and handed it back. But I needed to know how he could just arbitrarily take stuff on my list. 

Their List 

He said he had been in most of the meetings where the items were raised, but for some reason I had added them to my to-do list. He told me to send them back to the people who came up with them, ask them to flush them out, and bring them back to me with more ideas of how to accomplish them. He said most of the items will disappear. He told me I was suffering from a serious ailment  reverse delegation.  

The lesson for me was that real deadlines can cause stress but self-created ones that shouldn't be on our list only complicate our lives. Stress is part of life's recipe but we don't need to add any unnecessary ingredients. We can discuss not making everything on our to-do list a top priority in another post. 

Stress is part of life. Adding more than necessary isn't required.

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