Stress is inevitable at work, especially if you are the manager. But there is a difference between normal work pressure and excessive stress. Last-minute deadlines, back-to-back meetings, and balancing your workload with supporting a team can leave you feeling worn out. And with increasing numbers of managers reporting burnout, there is more at risk than not getting through your to-do list.
As a manager, you must learn how to manage stress and prioritise your well-being at work. Here are some tips to help you remain calm and focused in the workplace:
Working long hours and being on call is a regular occurrence for many managers, but you must also give yourself time away from work. Take advantage of flexible working hours so that you can take regular breaks and create a better work/life balance. Define your start and end times for each day as part of your weekly planning process. If you know you will be working late some evenings, can you start work later that day? If you have a full day of meetings, can you schedule quiet time for the next day? Taking a half-day off work before a busy week can be a great way to rest and recharge before you head into a stressful period, and you will have more energy to perform your best.
Take time to pause.
Take regular breaks throughout the day – even if it’s just for five minutes – to give yourself a chance to catch your breath, clear your mind and re-energise. These microbreaks also allow you to transition between different types of work more easily. Too often, we rush between tasks and conversations without giving ourselves enough time to change gears. The result is a feeling of overwhelm and a cloudy mind as the residue of previous work builds up.
Take control of your workload.
As a manager, your to-do list rarely stays the same for long. Between requests from other managers and leaders, follow-ups with other departments and support for your team, there is always too much to do. To better manage stress and avoid overwhelm, you should regularly review your workload. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to assess your tasks and decide what you need to do. If you work in a fast-paced environment, completing this exercise again in the afternoon or after dealing with an unexpected, urgent request is worthwhile. Reviewing your workload can take as little as 10 minutes, and you will feel more confident that you are making the most of your time, even if a lot is happening. This reduces stress during the working day and helps you switch off in the evening and on weekends.
Learn to Delegate.
Being a manager may mean taking on multiple projects and responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean you must do everything yourself. Delegating some of your work to your team members can help you reduce your workload and allow them to develop their skills. Delegation isn’t an all-or-nothing exercise; it depends on how much time you have to support the person taking on the task and their ability and interest in doing the work. Begin by asking each team member what areas they want to be more involved in. Start delegating wherever possible, even if it’s a small step like gathering information or proofreading. It’s also important to manage the delegation process so that everyone clearly understands their roles and responsibilities. This could be a simple spreadsheet which outlines the different tasks and who is responsible for each.
Keep your system simple.
Disorganisation can create unnecessary stress and anxiety. On the other hand, it can be frustrating when a strict schedule or ideal plan goes awry. That’s why you need a system that is simple, easy to follow and allows for flexibility. For example, set up a task list in a spreadsheet and ensure the outcomes or deadlines are clear. An example is the My Desk Template which provides a single-page view of your work week. Use this to manage your work and encourage your team to do the same, making it easier to understand each other’s workload and identify where you can help.
Being a manager can leave you feeling stressed, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to grow and help nurture other people’s careers. Taking the time to manage stress and look after yourself proactively will allow you to lead a successful team in the long term without the risk of burnout.