How to Navigate the Connection Between Stress and Productivity

Posted by Joe Rando on June 16, 2020

stress and productivity

Did you know that 69% of workers say the coronavirus pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career? That’s not surprising.

To say we’re living through a stressful time in our lives is an understatement. A quick glance at a news headline is enough to get your heart racing. 

We’ve all experienced stress, both in our personal and professional lives, and it’s inevitable that it will be a part of our lives, but it can impact you in different ways depending on how you react to it. It can either act as a motivator or a roadblock to being productive.

Here are some tips to help navigate the connection between stress and productivity.

The Relationship Between Stress and Productivity

Have you ever just had so much on your plate that you genuinely don’t know where to get started, so instead of diving in, you just blankly stare until you can actually muster up the courage to begin (all while thinking about everything else that’s on your plate)? Me too.

I realize I’m not explaining a foreign concept to you. If you’ve experienced stress, you know what an impact it can have on getting things done efficiently. However, even though you’ve likely experienced the situations below, I wanted to point out the various ways it can have an impact on you and in turn, your productivity, so that you can be aware of them the next time you’re stressed so that you can best prepare yourself to lessen the blow.

Stress can make you feel out of control.

Don’t we know it. The overwhelming feelings of stress can make your head spin and seem like you’re unable to grasp ahold of anything around you. It’s distracting, which, needless to say, is not conducive to productivity. The next time you’re stressed, acknowledge it, take a step back, and see if you can harness the stress to your advantage instead.

Tips to take back control

  • Focus on time management. Don’t make this an afterthought, the more you can take back control of your time, the more in control you’ll feel, which will help you to get things done.
  • Keep a realistic schedule. No matter how many times you keep a strict schedule, I promise you it will change. Things come up. You need to be able to roll with the punches but prioritize what’s important so that at least the must-get-dones get taken care of. Anything else you accomplish is just icing on the cake.
  • Know what triggers you. If you know what triggers your stress, you can find coping methods to deal with it or offset the implications. By knowing what triggers your stress, you’ll be able to more adequately plan around it and take back control.
  • Delegate. You can do it. I know it’s hard but you don’t need to be the one who controls everything in your life. If there is anything that can get done effectively, without you having to touch it, then get it off your plate.

Relationship stress hinders all kinds of productivity.

Are you and your significant other fighting more? Is there tension between you and your best friend? Are you and your boss not seeing eye-to-eye. Stress is often the key player in these situations and it takes a toll on you more than you think. People tend to be more productive when they have a solid support system around them, so when you’re not on good terms, not only is it a detriment to your relationship, but your productivity in general.

Tips to make sure your relationships are solid

  • Put time towards them. Relationships of all types need to be worked on and cared for. Don’t take them for granted.
  • Find a hobby you and a friend/significant other/co-worker can both participate in, even if you’re separated due to social distancing. For example, you could do virtual paint classes, do cooking competitions with one another to share over Zoom, or start a virtual book club. You’ll find that when things get a little rough, finding this common ground can help pull you back together.
  • Be the first to apologize. No matter what grudges you’re holding, be the one to make amends. Clearing the air and not letting an argument drag on too long will be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and will free up a ton of mental space that you can dedicate elsewhere.
  • Speak the truth…with kindness. This is not a time to bottle your concerns, fears and frustrations. You need to address them to avoid escalating stress. But address honestly and kindly. Be sure to examine your roll in the issue so that your perspective reflects the truth as the other person is likely experiencing it,
  • And most importantly, listen. Yogi Bera said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Well, you can learn a lot by listening.

The negative impacts of stress on health.

Ever get stress-induced headaches? Have you ever tried to work through these headaches? While this is difficult in itself, the headache can also serve as a metaphor. When one aspect of your health isn’t up to par, it’s impossible to run at full capacity.

Studies are continuing to unveil that stress can significantly take a toll on your health and can even lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Not to mention all the ways it can impact your mental health! Do these symptoms sound like attributes of a person that’s performing at 100%? 

A healthy mind and body, functioning at full capacity, can do wonders for productivity and the amount you can contribute to various aspects of your life in a day.

Tips for getting healthier to increase productivity

  • Get your sleep. This needs to be a top priority up there with diet and exercise. Low mental energy = low energy = low productivity. Turn off electronics at night. Avoid caffeine after noon. Do what you need to do to optimize your zzzzs for optimal performance. 
  • Get active. Not only does this benefit your health overall, but a quick walk around the block can also boost your mood, increase your mental energy, and boost productivity. You don’t need to add Ironman to your resume. Simply taking breaks to get moving throughout the day will suffice.
  • Eat right. Do what you can to get the nutrients your body needs to run optimally. Want pizza for dinner? Fine! We don’t expect your diet to be perfect, but the healthier you are, the better you’ll feel, and the more motivated you’ll be to tackle any tasks that come your way.
  • Breathe. Studies around meditation and a clear focus on your breath have been gaining momentum in recent years on how they impact energy and productivity. Consider adding this practice to your daily routine. Many experts across various fields swear by it. It doesn’t even need to take that much time out of your day. In fact, it can take as little as one minute.
  • Embrace downtime. Find the value in being unproductive. When you’re busy and constantly on the go (let’s be clear, being busy is not the same as being productive), you risk burnout. Taking breaks lets your mind rest so that it can perform optimally when it needs to focus on getting things done.
  • Have a positive attitude. When it comes to stress specifically, see it as a challenge that you want to overcome, not a barrier that you can’t break through. See the difference there? Being positive actually helps brain function and productivity, so find the silver lining in a stressful situation.

Work and stress - need I say more?

Work and stress are like peanut butter and jelly. They always seem to find each other, don’t they? Too much stress can significantly impact your workload. 

Just a few of the many ways it can impact you personally include:

  • Loss of creativity
  • Tardiness (due to low energy caused by stress)
  • Irritability with co-workers
  • Missed deadlines

Tips to mitigate work-related stress

  • Learn when to say “no” to a task. You don’t need to be a superhero who says “yes” to everything even if you don’t have the time to do it. It doesn’t do anybody any good. Be transparent about your workload so that you give adequate attention to the tasks you need to get done.
  • Take breaks. The number of people who continue to work through lunch just blows my mind. Instead of risking burnout, take 15 minutes to eat a sandwich, OK?
  • Foster work relationships. As mentioned before, stress has much less of an impact when you have a solid support system.

Work often tops the charts as a number one stressor for employees, so companies need to be doing what they can to improve their work culture to keep employees as stress-free as possible, otherwise, you risk major negative impacts towards your bottom line and increased turnover. A few ways businesses are working to improve their environment include:

  • Focus on training and onboarding. A lot of employee stress simply comes from feeling like they weren’t adequately onboarded or trained to do their job. Make process development a priority and make sure employees have the instructions they need to do their jobs right.
  • Include benefits that improve mental well-being. Many companies are starting to see the benefits of keeping employees happy and are going to great lengths to do so. Consider throwing Friday happy hours. Cater breakfast once a week. Encourage personal days (in fact, many companies now have an unlimited PTO policy). Treat employees like people, not cogs in a machine.

How to use stress to your advantage

Believe it or not, stress can actually be a good thing if you’re able to manage it correctly. There is a difference between significant stress, the kind that can truly have a negative impact on you, and lighter stress.

The latter is necessary. It can light a fire under you and actually motivate you to get things done. It actually does improve cognitive function! If we didn’t have any stress, we’d risk becoming complacent and wouldn’t have a strong drive to reach for our goals or simply accomplish regular tasks.

A little stress can help you stretch your capabilities and push the limits of your comfort zone, which can result in a lot of growth and positive performance. Building up this kind of stress over time can help make you more resilient to other stressors that come your way.

In a nutshell, stress is basically a bell curve, and you want to be on top of that curve. If you have too little stress, you risk inefficiency due to lack of motivation, but if you have too much stress, you risk inefficiency due to the various reasons we mentioned above. Follow the coping mechanisms previously stated to keep you at the top of the curve.

How Technology Can Help You Get to the Top of the Curve

At the root of a lot of your stressors is the ability to organize your life and plan ahead. Time is often a hindrance to being proactive about getting rid of the stress triggers that surround you on a daily basis, but people just don’t know how to create that time for themselves (aside from getting up earlier or working later which we all know won’t do you any good in the long run).

LifeStarr is an app that allows you to stay organized while saving you time so that you can focus on what matters and conquer the things weighing on you. It allows you to only focus on tasks when you need to, and not worry about them when you don’t. Unlike other task management platforms, and there are many, LifeStarr allows you to:

  • Work with anyone, anywhere, and on anything, even if they aren’t a LifeStarr user themselves
  • Integrate communications into your tasks so that you don’t find yourself searching through a bunch of emails which can waste a ton of time
  • Create an infinite amount of subtasks to go along with a project so that you can include all aspects of a project, no matter how big or small they may be
  • It’s free...and always will be

If you’re looking for a way to take back control of your life, decrease stress, and increase productivity, look no further than LifeStarr.

Sign Up for the LifeStarr App

Joe Rando

Written by Joe Rando

Joe Rando is the Founder and CEO of WorkStarr, the company that created LifeStarr. He lives in Sharon, MA with his wife, Licia, a child therapist, and has 4 grown children who are all awesome (just ask him). He has a degree in physics from UMass and an MBA from UConn. Joe has started a number of businesses in technology and real estate. He is very excited about LifeStarr and pretty much never stops talking about it (just ask his wife). His hobbies include drinking coffee, thinking about drinking coffee, and wishing he was drinking coffee. Between cups of coffee, he sometimes jogs, skis, cycles, and plays the guitar.