Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Optimum Stress

Curve from zenstorming  
I first came across the Yerkes-Dodson curve a couple years ago.  It popped up again recently. 

The first time it was related to arousal levels in students taking tests in college.  Basically, what it says is there is an optimum stress level for a test-taker.  Too much or too little stress, and the test-taker performs below his or her capabilities.

The second time around, it was in reference to work-loads.  With several fast-paced projects going on, the stress level rises.  You can see it on the faces of your co-workers (and maybe you're own), if you know what to look for.  Usually you don't have to look hard.  What you don't know is just how much stress they're under or where it's coming from.  What you do know is, they're feeling the pinch. 

Different people have different ways of handling stress.  If one person is under-stressed, maybe they feel they're not busy enough.  They go looking for things to do, projects to work.  They FIND something to do that interests them. 

Short-term over-stress is one thing. Chronic over-stress is an entirely different animal.  In short-term over-stress, a person knows it's temporary.  Maybe the push is to get something shipped out the door - a new prototype - in under four weeks.  The goal is clear, possibly unreasonable, maybe almost impossible.  But it's time limited. 

On the other hand, chronic over-stress can take a toll in the form of burn-out, and it creeps up on us.  You know what I'm talking about - it's hard to get out of bed in the morning, or get excited about a new project because you're just not quite up to the challenges.  It requires more energy than you have.  We've probably all been there at one time or another in our lives.  The best advice I've come across to deal with burn-out is to start simplifying, cutting back, and prioritizing.  Figure out the really important things, and work on those first.  Take baby steps.  If your goal is to have a more balanced work-home life, start by leaving work one day during at the week 'on-time'.  If that works, start there and expand.

Just my two cents worth.

What's the best advice you've heard about preventing job burn-out?        

No comments:

Post a Comment