Stress has a bad reputation as something that's horrible for you.
Stress causes cortisol!
Cortisol causes heart attacks!
Heart attacks make you die!
No, nobody is a fan of heart attacks. But in reality, stress is healthy and important.
Look to someone who you know is highly productive, and you'll notice that they thrive during stressful moments. They also know how to design their environments to provide them with optimum stress levels.
That's the key: Striking the balance of positive stress and harnessing it to your advantage.
How We Grow
As I've written about in the past, I find that calendarizing all my important thoughts and events helps me be productive. As a result, when I glance at my schedule, I hardly ever feel relaxed.
There's a certain amount of stress that's associated with getting things done. But that's living in the positive realm of stress -- or eustress. That's where we all want to be.
Here, you feel compelled to accomplish tasks. You feel motivated by pressure to perform and get things done.
There's long been a misconception that this state, in and of itself, is harmful and unhealthy. But it's actually the opposite. It's how we grow as human beings.
Where we don't want to be, though, is distress, which leads to fatigue, burnout and decreased performance. And there's a simple way to avoid this.
Intense Rest Balances Intense Stress
Balancing positive stress with sufficient relaxation is the key to finding true success.
Alternate your prolonged exposure to stressful environments where you're completely tuned in, with prolonged exposure to restful environments. Your workweek is already arranged like this: Five days in an office setting, and two days of relaxation and recharging.
But it also applies to big-picture goals. You'll find entrepreneurs who spend several stressful months trying to lift a company off the ground, then follow it with a month of travel and leisure. When my husband and I need a mini-retreat from our company, we trek to our farm in upstate New York, devoid of cell service, internet and a single television, to fully disconnect and recharge. In this state, we can truly reach our full thought potential.
According to one study, only 16 percent of creative and mental insights happen in the workplace. The rest are a result of reflection and connection accomplished in times of rest.
The key to productivity and motivation is a healthy dose of stress. But only when coupled with a similar dose of intense restfulness.
Be in Tune With Your Natural Energy
A simple way to maximize your performance under duress? Be cognizant and aware of natural energy levels that all of us experience throughout the day.
Historically in several countries, it's been typical for daily business to come to a halt in the late afternoon. Reason being: that's when our bodies' natural energies are at their lowest points.
Generally, we're equipped with the most natural energy in the first few hours that we're awake. That energy gradually dips until the late afternoon, until we see another peak between 4 and 7 p.m.
Using this logic, I always try to schedule my most stressful activities in the mornings, when I know I'm at my mental peak for the day, and best suited to thrive under pressure.
Of course, everybody operates at their own pace. But by being in tune with your natural rhythms, you can properly map out your workload, and operate in the productive realm of eustress.