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How To Spot Hidden Stress In The Workplace

As Published In Smead Organomics
How To Spot Hidden Stress In The Workplace

Publicity -- Smead Organomics

Stress in the workplace can make your 9-to-5 hours miserable. However, sometimes you don’t even know what’s causing the problem — something’s not right, but you can’t quite pinpoint it. Unless you’re an air traffic controller or your boss is a total jerk, job stress is usually caused by an inability to get organized and draw healthy boundaries. Take a look at your work day to see if any of these situations feel familiar.

Constant Interruption

Some of the biggest frustrations in a modern worker’s life are those outside interruptions that keep you from focusing on your job to-dos. Is someone always stopping by your desk with a question? A problem? A project? A major crisis that you’re expected to drop everything and address? No wonder you can’t get anything accomplished — when you spend all day putting out other people’s fires!

You might assume that you have little or no control over your time when you’re on someone else’s clock — but this just isn’t true. It’s actually quite easy to stop an interruption before it completely derails your day, if you’re proactive. You simply have to be the one to say, “I’m sorry but I can’t help you right now. I really need to get this finished. Can you come back this afternoon?”

Taking On Too Much

Another self-induced cause of stress in the workplace comes from being a “yes-man,” jumping in too quickly to offer your services whenever anyone asks for help. There’s nothing wrong with assisting a colleague, as long as you’ve got your priorities straight. YOUR responsibilities comes first — when you don’t have time to stay on top of them, you don’t have time to volunteer. It’s entirely acceptable to tell a co-worker (or a boss) “no” — just explain that you need to finish the project you’re working on first, but you’ll be happy to pitch once you’re done. You have to draw the line. No one else will draw it for you.

Staying Glued To Your Desk

Americans are notorious for thinking that more is better — and this is certainly true in terms of work hours. Are you one of the many millions who work through lunch, stay late trying to catch up, and maybe even sacrifice weekends or vacation days for your job? As the old saying goes, you can’t fill anyone else’s glass when your own pitcher is empty.

Pushing yourself harder and harder without a break isn’t going to make you more productive — in fact, it’s a primary cause of burnout. Managing work stress is about learning how to maintain a sense of balance. You need time away as much as you need to focus while at your desk. Get out of the office for lunch, get up to stretch a few times during the day, take a walk — and most of all, keep evenings/weekends for yourself. You’ll feel better and be more effective at your job.

Hidden Clutter

It goes without saying that a cluttered office is stressful — loose items left sitting out are a distraction, having to search for a lost document wastes valuable time, and missed deadlines due to disorganization can throw you into a panic. This may not seem like a boundary issue at first, but it is. Most folks accumulate piles and stacks on their desk not because they don’t know how to create order — but because they don’t take the TIME to organize.

Once you’ve got your fabulous filing system set up with color-coded folders and easy-to-read labels, carve out some of your schedule for maintaining that system. A clean desk is a good first step toward a peaceful tomorrow morning — so set aside 15 minutes at the end of each day to put everything back where it belongs. Then take time at least once or twice a year to purge your files and clean the junk out of your desk — your stress level (and your boss) will thank you.

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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