Becoming a Stress Junkie

Stepping back from the stress and working your plan.

I have been known to wade pretty far into the deep end of the Taking on Too Much Pool. In case you don’t venture down to that end all that frequently, it usually results in getting much less sleep, acquiring much more stress and generally not enjoying much of anything you do. It’s the equivalent of someone pushing the “On” button without knowing where “Off” is. You find yourself alternatively snippy, exhausted, frantic, confused, and stubborn beyond measure. I call this Overdrive.

In one instance, I found myself coordinating contractors for repairs in my home, handling the clean up and some of the DIY restoration for the repairs, preparing to host Thanksgiving dinner with overnight guests, doing a self development class, working with Scott on several significant business frameworks and engaging in client work. At three and half weeks to Turkey Day I realized three very important things: 1) I needed a really good project plan 2) I needed help and 3) I needed to kick it into Overdrive.

With the plan defined and help solicited I ramped up for going 200 miles an hour for the long haul and off I went. I’ll tell you now, it wasn’t always pretty.

My guests called to postpone or switch venues. “Nope I got it.”

My vendors raised eyebrows at their timelines. “I have faith in you Dave, you’ll get it done.”

My partner suggested taking time off to focus on the house. “No thanks, we need to finish this.”stress junkie

I went to bed later. Got up earlier. Ate in front of the laptop. I dusted. Called vendors. I multitasked by polishing silver and discussing terms with Scott. Created menus. Dusted again. Spoke to potential clients. Painted. Shopped. Worked and re-worked documents. Woke up the next day and dusted some more.

The Monday before Thanksgiving we were watching football. We’d finished for the day. Sitting there, I started to fidget. I jumped up, did something and came back. Fidget again. Finally Scott asked me what was wrong. I stopped to consider the question. I’m working the project plan and I’m ahead of schedule. There is nothing else to do this evening.

This is when I realize I am addicted to Overdrive. I can’t do just one thing at a time. I don’t know how to sit and relax while we watch the game. Had he not asked, I would have FOUND something to do. Not because it needed doing but because I was so accustomed to having to be doing something.

There is the inherent danger of Overdrive: addiction. Plus, its widespread. We’ve all come to rely on it as a state of being. Stress is the norm and excessive stress is totally acceptable. Except its not. Had I found something to do would it have been useful? It’s debatable. The quality of work suffers as the duration of Overdrive increases. I can point out some sloppy paint work I did as an easy example for you.

Overdrive is not for the long haul. It is intended for short bursts in really critical circumstances. Yet we plan projects with this level of output in mind. By doing so we rob the individuals of the very necessary physical, mental and emotional benefits of down time. We also accept tolerable results during crunch time instead of exceptional ones that are accomplished at a reasonable rate of work.

I had a solid plan and the necessary help to get it done. I was ahead of schedule, there was no need to continue to maintain that pace. Yet I was so accustomed to it, I couldn’t stop. I was feeding off it. Lesson learned. I am installing the Overdrive Restrictor. I do not need to be in Overdrive all the time, I need it in reserve for when things go awry. A few simple questions should do the trick:

  • Should I be feeling stress right now?
  • Does the project plan and/or the rest of the team validate performing this way?
  • Am I setting this pace out of need or preference?
  • How good are my results?

Everyone is working under constraints these days. Folks are deep in Overdrive. But, once you have a plan and resources, ask yourself is this level of stress situational or self prescribed?


It’s time to get proactive about reducing our stress.  Check out the Stress Tracker and Stress Journal available at www.MeetMaple.com.

Originally published on December 6, 2011

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