Stress management

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Q. With all that's going on in the industry, how can I reduce my stress level on a day-to-day basis?

A. When you talk about stress management, I think where people's minds go to first is typically the emotional aspects of stress, and the fact that our industry changes on a daily basis (and now, whose doesn't?). I'm sure that through this series we will discuss several of those elements. However, let me start by addressing practical and physical matters, typically focusing on these four elements:

Time management. Use the beginning of the day to plan, before hitting the e-mails and phone calls. Planning offers a 4:1 ratio: Every minute spent planning saves four minutes during the day.

Workspace setup and organization. Make sure the workspace is organized and supplied with the items you might need (pens, paper, etc.). Keep a list of frequently asked questions (and objections) nearby. A significant element of workspace setup is ergonomics--placement of the monitor, keyboard, mouse and chair to limit the physical stresses of too much time at the computer.

Environmental stress. These are the subtle issues that cause stress: noise, air quality, lighting, even the colors of the walls. These are probably the least often addressed but there is a large body of research on how this impacts our spirit and the workplace.

Finally, process management. This past year, I've done a lot of reading into LEAN and other approaches to process management. However, the book with the most impact for me is "How Starbucks Saved My Life," by Michael Gates Gill. The book says a lot about the dignity of work, servant leadership and diversity. One of the key take-aways: how Starbucks has nailed down the processes across thousands of stores. There are graphs that show where pastries are placed, there are timelines and checklists for the beginning and the end of the day, certain ways they call out drinks to one another and ways they greet customers.

Dr. Gary Schwantz is a speaker, writer and consultant. Reach him at