How to stay focused and beat stress

How to stay focused and beat stress

Please note this article was published in 2017. For up-to-date information on the coronavirus outbreak and how it's affecting marketers, check the Exchange homepage for the latest content.

If juggling the demands of your job sometimes leaves you stressed, try these tips to stay focused.

With marketing’s remit broadening, individual responsibilities ballooning, and a wider set of stakeholders asking questions, it’s easy to let stress get the better of you – even in your dream job.

The secret is knowing how to manage your time, prioritise your work, and communicate your goals clearly. As April is Stress Awareness Month, here are nine ways to help you beat stress and stay focused.

Katherine Norman, talent acquisition manager at Network Locum, an online job community for the health sector, has gathered an arsenal of advice that has helped her, and others she’s worked with, to achieve more and stress less. Her top tips are:

1. Figure out what’s on your plate

“At the end of each day I write a list of all the things I plan to work on tomorrow. Then I put a star next to the three tasks I’ll start with – one big and two small. This tactic helps me wind down at hometime and give a prioritised, standup-ready communication to my team the next morning.

2. Enjoy problems

“As human beings, we enjoy solving problems and helping others solve things too – like a stranger on the train, weighing in on your cryptic crossword. When stress hits at the office and you start to feel overwhelmed, remember, these challenges are part of what keeps you engaged. So try to enjoy it and unpack the problem over a cuppa with a colleague.

3. Drink!

“Your brain is 75% water. Dehydrated brains solve problems slower. If you have a mental block, have a break and a glass of the good stuff, then come back to your desk, ready to concoct an action plan to get you on your way again.”

4. Manage upwards

“Learning your limits can prevent sleepless nights, unhealthy behaviours, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Identify who you report to – often harder than it sounds – and make sure you catch up with them every week. This is a proactive and focused ‘managing upwards’ conversation where you can check your goals are aligned – but it also helps pinpoint workload issues early on.”

5. Control what you can

“Being answerable to lots of people all clamouring for updates can distract from your work and ramp up stress levels. Prepare and share a simple weekly report showing your priorities and activities, so you can amplify your bigger picture to your internal stakeholders. Invite comments. It's your feedback channel – but it will also make colleagues aware that they aren't the only one needing your attention.

6. Make use of your ‘people people’

If there’s an HR department where you work, remember that they want to foster a workplace environment and company culture that not only promotes business excellence but also cares about your physical and emotional wellbeing. They can always provide an ear, a dose of perspective, or a chance to reflect.

You can also try ways of reimagining your workspace.

7. Stand to attention

Standing desks are on the up and up. Their advocates attest to improved energy levels and laser-like attention powers – as well as increasing physical fitness, burning a third more calories than you do seated. They’re also cheaper than you might think, with basic flat-pack models that fit on top of a table starting at around £30.

8. Build your bubble

In any shared office, noise levels can fray nerves. Headphones sometimes help... but what’s the best music for your concentration levels? There’s a slightly quirky option here: white noise generators. Sites like let you build your own combination of sounds to block out the world and give your brain just enough aural friction to boost your productivity.

9. Get technical with time management

The Pomodoro Technique breaks down work into 25-minute intervals each separated by short breaks. Its aim is to maximise your concentration in chunks and give yourself a rest between them to reset the cognitive fibres. A tomato-shaped timer is optional.

Corissa Nunn Freelance Journalist
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