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Stress = Productivity?

by Stephanie Woods on January 14, 2010

I realized today that over the years I have conditioned myself to associate stress with productivity. The more stressed out I am, the faster I work and the more I get done.

Photo courtesy of Rosie Hardy on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Rosie Hardy on Flickr

Unfortunately this is not a healthy habit.

I wonder how many other people are like this? I imagine this is normal behavior for the most part.

My goal is to retrain my brain into associating happy and relaxed with productivity. I am a little apprehensive about how I am going to do this. I’ve been equating stress with productivity since the first time in high school I downed a pot of coffee and wrote a killer report (that I got 100% on). I was hooked from the get-go.

I like this post: Happiness is the Best Productivity Tool

It gives 10 reasons why happiness is awesome for getting work done:

    Happy people work better with others
    Happy people are more creative
    Happy people fix problems instead of complaining about them
    Happy people have more energy
    Happy people are more optimistic
    Happy people are way more motivated
    Happy people get sick less often
    Happy people learn faster
    Happy people worry less about making mistakes – and consequently make fewer mistakes
    Happy people make better decisions
Photo courtesy of Ashlee Chae on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Ashlee Chae on Flickr

Not to insinuate that I walk around all grumpy all of the time! Not true. I tend to put myself into stressful situations on purpose sometimes just to get work done (i.e. procrastination).

Anyone else out there finding themselves doing the same thing?

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January 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan Bleiweiss January 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Steph,

I definitely operate this way. The adrenaline rush that propels me into action allows me to focus so intently that I can get things done without distraction. Maybe I need to work on the ADD distraction factor, yet I’m generally a happy camper, relying on that creative vision to come of it’s own accord so I’m not too sure about this. Or am I just telling myself my current methods are acceptable? Blech. I don’t have an answer there…

Dawn Wentzell January 14, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I’m with ya. Constantly working, constantly busy. But as the months go on I find I’m being less and less productive. I’m simply tired now. And when I’m tired, I work slower, I make more mistakes and I’m less creative.

The brain needs rest in order to rejuvenate itself.

Stephanie Woods January 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Alan – Up until my moment of realization today I too believed that stress helped me produce my best work. I am beginning to second guess this way of thinking. I guess the bottom line is that life is too short to get so stressed out, and I don’t want to live life like that! Just talking about stress is making my shoulders all tense … eeek.

Dawn – I’ve noticed you always seem super busy on Twitter. There must be a way to find a happy medium. Or maybe the answer is to remain busy, but approach it differently in our brains? That’s what I am trying to wrap my head around. Not sure it’s possible yet …

Gordon March 2, 2010 at 2:00 am

Good post. Stress can also inhibit one’s mind to the point of “suffication”. I like many, have thought that some of my best work is done under stress, but have realized that it may be more of an excuse to justify my procrastination! There will always be work, relationship, family,financial, and day in the life stressors, therefore why self impose anymore then is necessary? And as far as happy, happy, happy…unless it’s sincere, that can be stressful as well. A different POV to your 10 reasons… http://www.scribd.com/doc/8778/Why-Intelligent-People-Tend-To-Be-Unhappy

Stephanie Woods March 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Gord – I hadn’t realized you commented until now. I think my email notification must have turned off or something. And as you might have noticed, I habitually neglect my blog here. That’s an interesting article you linked to. I like the Hemingway quote: “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know”. I also think if you’re highly intelligent you put higher expectations on yourself – which can lead to stress and unhappiness. Although I do feel that geeks are definitely becoming much more socially acceptable than before!

Carol Anne March 29, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I don’t really believe that you work better under stress. When you are procrastinating about getting something done, but all the while doing something else – your mind is still busy working on the task that should be done. Then …. when the deadline for the task arrives – Eureka! – your brain just pulls out all the information it has been formulating during the procrastination stage and puts it all into some semblance of order … which makes you look and feel like a genius. Having said that – I agree with your original plan to reduce stress – which will also reduce stress in those around you – and create a more harmonius atmosphere in which to grow and flourish. Now – this advice comes from a stressed out accountant who should be doing income taxes instead of poking around here!

Stephanie Woods April 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Carol Anne – That is an excellent point you bring up. As I am procrastinating I am generally thinking A LOT about what needs to be done even if I am not physically working on it. Never thought of it that way before. You are so smart.

Francis Baptiste May 3, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Productivity and stress seem to go together naturally. The key to it all is pressure. There’s pressure on deadlines, pressure on results. I’ve never been much for procrastination, but I’ve found the opposite, obsession or workaholic tendencies, can be just as stressful. If there’s a project I like, then i usually want to work on it all day and night. And that almost always creates conflicts between myself and my friends, family or partner.
I’ve always been of the philosophy that a bit of stress and a bit of frustration is good for a project, because if you’re not stressed or frustrated it probably means you don’t give a crap about what you’re doing, or maybe that you’re just not learning and evolving creatively.

Stephanie Woods May 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Francis – You bring up some excellent points. Although I do tend to procrastinate, it’s not because I am sitting around doing nothing! Quite the opposite. I’ve been working like a mad women these days. I can’t even remember the last time I took a day off …

I care about my projects TOO much sometimes, hence why I get so stressed. So you’re right … it is completely natural. (Excellent point.) I’ve decided that I am going to try and approach all of my projects with unabashed enthusiasm and not mistake that enthusiasm for stress.

Tymothy Malee May 25, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I don’t really believe that you work better under stress. When you are procrastinating about getting something done, but all the while doing something else – your mind is still busy working on the task that should be done. Then …. when the deadline for the task arrives – Eureka! – your brain just pulls out all the information it has been formulating during the procrastination stage and puts it all into some semblance of order … which makes you look and feel like a genius. Having said that – I agree with your original plan to reduce stress – which will also reduce stress in those around you – and create a more harmonius atmosphere in which to grow and flourish. Now – this advice comes from a stressed out accountant who should be doing income taxes instead of poking around here!
+1

admin July 7, 2010 at 11:58 am

That’s a great way to look at it Tymothy. I think that you’ve actually hit the nail on the head here in fact. When I am procrastinating I am most definitely putting a lot of work into in mentally; carefully formulating my plan of attack. People are offering some great insight into this post, I love it! Now get those taxes done. :)

Nate Moller February 9, 2011 at 3:35 am

I empathize with this post 110%! Sometimes I feel like I purposely put things off so I feel stress and so I push really hard at the end of the day, overnight, or whatever.

I really feel like when I’m on the ball and organized and get things done ahead of time, I’m truly more happy, more productive, and more on my “A-Game”.

Thanks for the post!

admin March 22, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Nate – Sorry I took ages to approve your comment. I somehow missed it! (And as you might be able to tell my blog is sadly neglected.)

I totally agree 100% with everything you said as well. If only procrastinating weren’t so easy ….

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