Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: The Impact Of Stress On Time Management

My family member the archivist has, for many years, been studying and preserving old television. For the last twenty months, he's also been the daytime caregiver for a baby, now toddler. Recently he said that he frequently can't work during toddler nap time, because he's worn out from the twenty-four hour a day stress of dealing with what a child should be eating, how he should be sleeping, whether or not he is sick, why he is crying, and keeping him safe and alive. When he gets a break because someone is napping, the archivist finds himself collapsing in front of the TV or with his phone. The stress of Dad Life often makes it difficult for him to take advantage of his small amounts of work time.

This was very interesting to me, because I had just experienced a drop in my stress level after many years of dealing with another family member's illness. I had less to do, less hanging over my head, and less to worry about. Was this new lack of stress, I wondered, going to have some kind of positive impact on how I managed my time?

What Time Does To Stress Is Not The Same As What Stress Does To Time

I went out looking for information on this situation and didn't find much. There's a lot written on weak time management skills causing stress, but far less on stress causing a collapse in time management. One article I did find, How Stress Affects Your Work Performance by Christina Hamlett at the Houston Chronicle's website, deals with stress in traditional work places. A couple of points that could pertain to people who work for themselves:

  1. Stress contributes to job burnout and strained relationships. What happens with people who work alone and have no relationships to strain? Maybe burnout was what was contributing to my family member collapsing during nap time instead of working. Or my struggle to get up in the mornings because here's another day of problems, what's the hurry? Or get up off the couch at night to go to bed.
  2. Stress affects ability to remember things, evidently both short- and long-term, and makes you easily distracted. Do I have any new followers on Twitter this morning? I should look again this afternoon. Have any of my friends posted pictures on Facebook? Oops. Gotta go check my blog stats.
  3. Stress pounds away at your health. It's hard to work if you're sick. Or going to the doctor. Or the pharmacy. Or using the Internet to research what's wrong with you, which kind of relates to what we were just talking about with being distracted. 


Some Why From The Time Management Tuesday Archives

Speaking of archives, as we were earlier,a few things we've talked about here at OC's Time Management Tuesday feature could relate to what's happening when we're stressed enough to blow up our ability to manage time.

  • According to our old friend Kelly McGonigal in The Willpower Instinct, people who are distracted have poor impulse control and are less likely to be able to stay on long-term goals. Stressors...hugely distracting. And then there is the What-the-Hell Effect. In the case of people under stress, the more worn-out they get and less they do because of it, the worse they feel about their ability to get anything done and...What the Hell? They might as well watch TV during work time. They might as well stay in bed another half hour.
  • Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest says that a big part of the reason procrastinators procrastinate is that they're giving in to the need to feel good immediately. Say what you want about social media, it can be an immediate feelgood. McGonigal also writes about how undermining feeling bad can be in The Upside of Stress. People who are shamed or frightened by their doctors over things like weight, smoking, or drinking, frequently engage in those behaviors even more, because now they feel bad. They're humiliated and frightened, and the quickest way to escape those feelings for them is eating, smoking, or drinking. Well, people under stress feel bad. Often for years, if the stressor is child rearing or eldercare. TV, bed, and the Internet are immediate feel goods. Work, not so much. This spring I've noticed people on Twitter tweeting that they're having a bad day and asking to see images of cats, because that will make them feel better. I'd rather look at celebrity gossip on my tablet while lying in bed in the morning or plastered to the couch at night, but to each of us our own immediate escape. 


So What?

Well, exactly. We've got some why, but can we do anything about stress's impact on our work time? I've got a couple of things in the OC archive that might help, and I've started a summer blog read,  The Upside of Stress, which I mentioned above. I know I've said I was reading it before, but I must have gotten distracted or stressed or something. I'm really reading it now.

More to come.


George Russell said...

Gail, Always helpful. Thanks for restarting your blog

Jen Robinson said...

Interesting stuff, Gail. Thanks! I'm going to check out The Upside of Stress.

Gail Gauthier said...

Jen--If there's an upside to stress, I want to know about it.