Anxiety has risen as much as 30 percent in the last 4 years, affecting as much as a fifth of the population. While its causes are obviously varied, in this episode we decided to tackle work related stress and anxiety.
The episode is split up into three sections, with examples throughout:
Finding Focus and Prioritizing, where we discuss how to take control of your schedule by focusing on one thing at a time, and one main goal per day. We also talk about checking things off of your to-do list, and how doing the things you’re least comfortable with first can have a huge impact on reducing stress and improving your productivity.
Removing Sources of Anxiety, where we touch on the importance of taking the time to walk away from all sources of inputs and simply reflecting. We also talk about how restructuring the use of social media an email can help reduce a lot of latent stress.
Getting help, possibly the most important step. You’re never alone in your struggles, and simply speaking with significant others, friends, therapists, and even strangers can make you feel better. We also suggest a buddy system for those of us that do a lot of solo work to help you get out of your own head.
0:30 We spend the first few minutes talking about Sergei’s dog Pumpkin, which leads us to our topic today.
1:33 How to deal with work related stress.
2:20 We seem to be living in a unique time where stress seems somewhat ever present. Job security doesn’t really exist, and people often have multiple side projects or a side hustle going on just because we can’t rely on stability.
3:40 Increasingly, work mixes with our personal life so that compounds the stress.
3:57 So we’re going to talk about how to handle this.
4:15 There are 3 main topics that we’re going to cover. 1) Finding Focus and Prioritizing 2) Removing Sources of Anxiety, and 3) Getting Help
4:53 Finding focus and prioritizing is a good place to start, because if you have a mess in your mind right now that’s causing stress, the first step is to get organized.
5:18 Whether you’re a contractor or you just have one full time gig, you probably often feel like you’re being pulled in different directions.
5:28 So how do you stay on top of everything without getting too stressed out?
5:40 One way is to focus on just one thing at a time. For example, by focusing on just one main issue you want to solve today, and being okay with only thinking about that one task or issue.
6:25 A perfect example of this is how Arnold Schwarzenegger handled it. He was successful before his acting career took off. He found himself doing body building, managing a bricklaying business, managing property and on top of that starting an acting career, and it left him super stressed when he had so much on his plate.
6:51 After discovering transcendental meditation, he realized he needs to be in the moment and present by focusing on only tackling one problem at a time. And this helped the stress melt away.
8:11 We’ve experienced this type of paralyzing stress before. In fact, this past Summer, Vadim experienced a panic attack that he had never felt before.
8:17 Vadim: I signed up to teach a class, and I had to come up with an entire curriculum for a 3 week high school program teaching 5 hours per day.
9:10 Sergei: The education program was a bit of a startup in and of itself, and Vadim and the founder didn’t properly align on expectations. So he found himself the day before the class realizing that he wasn’t prepared to do 5 hours per day of class straight with the same group of students. He just didn’t have enough content.
9:53 Vadim: The only way that I was ultimately able to get past that anxiety and complete the class, is by only focusing on one day of content at a time, vs. thinking of the whole month of content I had to do.
11:45 Another way of mitigating stress is by identifying what things are sources of anxiety for you, and removing that.
12:30 Sergei: just a few years ago I started my job at Venture for America, and had a pretty important role running all their entrepreneurship programs. Like their accelerator, crowdfunding competitions etc.
12:55 And part of running programs was scheduling them, which I would put off.
13:06 I thought about it, and realized that choosing the date, the actual scheduling was a big source of anxiety for me.
13:50 Once I recognized that an inability to pick the right date was the source of my anxiety, I made the decision to stop obsessing over it and just picked a date. Once I did that the anxiety melted away.
14:00 After doing it a few times, I stopped caring about the scheduling part and now I don’t get nervous about it.
14:15 Vadim: Often times we manufacture in our heads that something is really difficult when it actually is not.
14:46 Which is why when you make a task list for yourself, you should get the hard things out the way first. We gravitate to what’s easy and the hard stuff piles on and causes stress.
14:53 This extends the amount of time we spend being stressed about something. And often it’s not as hard and doesn’t take as long as we made it out to be in our heads.
16:20 Another way to reduce anxiety is to create a time and space for yourself where you have zero inputs coming into your head. We heard this advice on the Ezra Klein podcast from his guest Cal Newport.
17:01 In today’s world we are just constantly consuming content and having to fend off the things that are coming at us. We have very little time to process information and just think. This can cause latent stress because you don’t have time to process where your stress is coming from.
18:01 You have to find time to yourself to think, however you can find it.
18:47 Vadim: What I did recently is I was scrolling through Facebook in the morning and I noticed that I’m feeling bad, sad, and depressed, first thing in the morning. So I deleted the app from my phone. Sometimes you have to remove the sources of anxiety like these apps.
20:00 Sergei: It’s not easy to always know how to recognize the sources of anxiety for you, but the more you practice recollecting what caused anxiety, the better you’ll get at identifying it, and then removing it.
21:14 Even though the things we talked about are mostly self-driven, we want to make one last point. You shouldn’t feel like you have to deal with this alone. You can and should talk to others and that can help alleviate a lot of the stress.
21:50 It could be a colleague, a sibling, parent, significant other. Anyone you are comfortable commiserating with.
24:40 Vadim: Especially for anyone who works from home, or is a contractor or self employed, use the buddy system I use. Ask another friend to work out of a coffee shop with you. Even just being with someone else and talking through issues with them can help reduce the stress. Don’t keep it all on your shoulders.
26:00 Another way to reduce stress is to delegate the work that’s causing anxiety or that you’re simply not good at.
27:00 Sergei: We’ve been doing this podcast for a year, and I do all of the editing and I noticed myself getting anxious about it because I know I should be doing higher value work now like marketing and promoting the show. Once we decided to delegate this process, we’re now hiring an editor and the stress is gone.