How Can You Better Funnel Your Stress into Productivity to Become More Focused on the Task at Hand?


There is no shortage of research on how to reduce or eliminate stress, but that’s not always the best strategy. Instead, leverage that stress in a positive way to accomplish more. A UC Berkeley study found that “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.” 

A Harvard Business Review (HBR) article discusses this concept, known as the “Yerkes-Dodson law.” It compares anxiety to performance, and how the one impacts the other. When visualized, it displays as a bell curve. As anxiety grows, performance increases until it reaches an optimal point. Past that point, performance becomes impaired because anxiety is too high. They key is finding an ideal balance of stress to induce excitement, without impairing productivity.

Every individual’s optimal stress level is unique, and different situations have varying curves. They key is determining what works best for you in the given situation, and using that knowledge to adjust your mindset or circumstances in order to increase productivity. The following tips can help you increase or reduce anxiety to perform at your best.

Three Adjustments that Can Help You Find the Right Level of Anxiety to Perform Optimally at Work

1. Schedule Your Time

Block out time to address high-priority items on your to-do list and establish deadlines. Protect this time, whether that means working offsite, behind closed doors or outside of typical office hours, do what you need to do to best stick to your schedule. Knowing that you are dedicating concentrated time to accomplish your goals can provide the optimal level of stress you need to work efficiently and effectively.

2. Adjust Responsibilities

Adjusting your responsibilities can be easier said than done. For many, it involves conversations with managers to ensure that individual changes do not negatively impact the overall bottom line. In instances when there is too much stress, it helps managers to know that employees are overworked or overwhelmed with particular assignments. This enables them to provide training, adjust workloads and set realistic expectations. When employees don’t feel challenged enough, adding new responsibilities can help improve motivation. Plus, it can enable both personal and organizational growth.

3. Delegate

If you’re taking on more than you need to, make delegating a priority. It can be tempting to do everything yourself, because you know it will be done correctly without taking time to explain anything to anyone. However, the time you invest in training can have a significant payoff, as it can free your time for tasks that only you can accomplish and enable you to focus on more strategic activities.

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