Running a business, farm, nonprofit, or any other organization can be exhilarating, and it can be extremely stressful—often both in the same day.
There’s a popular quote that has been attributed to Mark Twain, Confucius, and even the famous ‘anonymous.’ It goes like this: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement, whoever said it. Maybe you’ve experienced this joy in your work – your head down, getting things done, only to find out that hours (not minutes) had already passed. Some call this “being in the zone.” Those are great moments.
When you’re “in the zone,” you’re hitting on all cylinders, your enthusiasm is driving you, and every problem you face seems to melt away like butter giving way to a warm knife.
Unfortunately, these in-the-zone moments can be few and far between for most people. What we experience is more like a blunt knife trying to cut through frozen butter. Work feels stressful rather than joyful.
The good news is that there are practices you can put in place to reduce the frustration and stress and get into the zone more often. Keep reading to discover more.
PRACTICES THAT REDUCE STRESS
Here are some recommendations that we think will help you move past the stress and into the place where you enjoy your work again.
Each of us is prone to giving in to stress. And we often set ourselves up for failure because we don’t have a place to express the emotional weight of stress-induced feelings and frustrations.
We may see others who have passions similar to our own as competitors, so we are less likely to confide in them. Or it may be that our pride is keeping us from wanting others to know we’re weak. So it’s easier to stay separate and keep what we feel to ourselves.
But the reality is that you need to find an outlet to get your thoughts and feelings outside of your head and heart so that they can be examined in a more objective way by others who might have a clearer perspective than you do. Then you can set about removing the stressors that are keeping you from doing the passionate work you want to be doing.
When we’re passionate about something, we often like to be “all in” involved in the work. It’s hard to trust ‘our baby’ to someone else who may not complete the project the same way we would. But when all of the projects and tasks that need to be done have to be done by, or filter through, you, it is you who are keeping the work you’re passionate about seeing come to light from being done! And then we increase our stress because we know that we’re the problem! So offload the work that’s not in your wheelhouse onto someone else so that you can focus on the work that you’re passionate about, freeing up the machine to work the way it was meant to work.
LEARN TO SAY ‘NO’
You may be a really nice person, but that doesn’t mean you should be expected to do everything for everyone just because there’s a need. Saying “no” is key to taking control of the stressors in your life accomplishing the work you’re passionate about.
When we’re passionate about something, it is easy to go deep into the nitty gritty and so focus on the minutiae that we lose the opportunity to work on tasks that are more beneficial for us to do. Thus, we can have great, fully formed ideas that never see the light of day because we’ve sabotaged ourselves.
A helpful practice is to track what you do during the day so that later you can step back and more objectively observe how you spent your day. Print a sheet of paper that divides your day up into 15 minute segments. At the end of each hour, write down what you did during those segments. Then at the end of the day (or better, the end of the week), observe how you spent your time. Were you doing the best tasks with the time you had?
In order to fight against the urge to dive deep and not come up for air, break up your day into manageable chunks and organize your projects/tasks to fit. Consider something like the Pomodoro Method to organize your day into smaller portions so that you can make time for the stressful tasks, while also allowing time for the projects and tasks you’re really passionate about.
REVIEW EVERY DAY
David Allen, in his very popular book Getting Things Done offers some really helpful advice on getting interrupters out of your head so that you can focus on the work you’re passionate about. He encourages you to write down everything you need to do as they come to mind (think stream of consciousness). Everything—personal, work, and hobby—the tiniest and the biggest. Then, once they’re out on paper, organize them into tasks that need to be done now or things that can wait. Then do the things that will take 2 minutes or less to do. Everything else, make a plan as to how to knock them out. What you don’t finish today, they go on the list for tomorrow (along with the things you already knew you needed to do tomorrow). Then, throughout the day, everytime you come across a new task to do, write it down.
The next morning, you will have a morning review ritual. You’ll go through all the new tasks that you wrote down the day before (or that you thought of when you woke up) and you’ll process them the same as you did the day before. This morning review ritual is key to getting past the stressors and into the passionate work.
The added benefit is that you can score quick wins every morning by checking those less-than-2-minute tasks off your list! Nothing is more motivating than seeing what you’ve already gotten done!
FOCUS ON TODAY
Ultimately, we need to recognize that anxiety is actually is a waste of our time when it comes to work. Worrying accomplishes nothing. Constantly replaying necessary tasks or problems in our mind’s eye doesn’t get us farther towards our goal of doing the work we are called on to do. The hamster wheel of thoughts gets us nowhere. So do what you can do, plan for what you can plan, and allow what remains to be handled by providence.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? … Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”—Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34
If accounting tasks seem like frozen butter to you, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have decades of experience and can solve the problems you are facing. Give us a call at (888) 272-7102 or email us and we can help you enjoy being in the zone once again.