International FinancialCorporation Fraud Regulatory Commission

Stress is a fact of modern life: a direct result of moretechnology and less time. Before the computer, the mobile phone, the instantaccess to information and rapid exchange of emails, life was slower and morepredictable.

So how do we manage in this always-on world we’re livingin, what strategies should we adopt to make sure that far from drowning underthe pressure we’re able to stay on top of things and actually increase ourproductivity? Here are a few hints to send those stress levels plummeting andyour production levels soaring.

1. Get organised

A simple but highly effective start to the de-stressing process. Begin every day with a clear desk, literally and mentally. Set outyour objectives for the day and list them. Everyone loves ticking off items,and it's a really positive thing to do. Be realistic with your objectives andidentify the order of priority. Bear in mind that the unexpected will alwayshappen, and that your day will be peppered with interruptions. And if you justcan't find time for one of today's non-priority items, it can go to the top oftomorrow's list.

2. Plan ahead

You may be starting each day with a 'to do' list, but youalso need to look further ahead. Identify events, projects and tasks which arecoming up and be sure to make space in your schedule for them. And don't justdo it once. Check and update your calendar regularly - it's a good idea toschedule your own 'diary meeting' at the same time every week.

3. Don't take ontoo much

It's the easiest thing in the world to agree to just onemore little task. Be careful – by mid-morning, those little tasks can quiteeasily turn into a mountain of work. You have to find a way to say 'no'. Noneed to be abrupt – try something along the lines of 'I'd love to help you outbut I have a backlog building up. If I can get through enough work, I'll giveyou a shout later and see what I can do to help'. You're giving a firm 'no' butshowing a willingness to assist others once your personal responsibilities arefulfilled. If a manager is trying to pile work on you, show your work list andask whether he or she would like to change the priorities in order toaccommodate this new task. This puts the onus back on the manager and explainswhy you might not be able to deliver on time.

4. Take time out

If work is getting on top of you, develop the disciplineto turn away from your work or screen and just breathe deeply for a fewseconds. The 'square breathing' technique is a great way of self-calming – justGoogle it to learn more about the technique. Then get up, take a brief walk tothe kitchen or coffee machine, just to give yourself a change of environment.Don't leave it long enough to get out of work mode – but a few seconds torecentre yourself can really make a difference here.

5. Cut down yourinterruptions

You can't do much about phone calls, other than notanswer them. Obviously, you need to take important calls, but if a call appearsto be something that can wait, let voicemail do what it was designed to do.Follow the same procedure with emails and internal messages – if they need aswift response, get on with it. If not, leave them for a while. It's a goodidea to schedule a number of periods during the day when you can respond toemails and calls.

6. Have a lunchbreak

A tough one, this. Many work environments can leaveemployees feeling slightly uncomfortable taking time off to eat. Try not tofall into this pattern – even if you just give yourself time to grab a sandwichand have a quick walk. Any smart manager knows that a break from your deskmakes you more, not less productive.

7. Look afteryourself

If you’d look after yourself, no-one else is going right,right? Something as simple as making sure you eat healthily, get a little bitof exercise and are well rested can make a huge difference. You know how muchrest and sleep you need to function properly so get that early night, stay offthe booze and don’t push yourself beyond your limits.

8. Create a stresstoolbox

You need a set of solutions for when things are gettingon top of you. There's plenty of online information about this subject but afew of the basics can work wonders in bringing your stress levels down. Deepbreathing is an excellent way of regathering your thoughts. Another greatmethod for banishing negativity is to identify a 'special' place – somewhereyou can quickly go to in your mind which oozes positivity. It might be afavourite beach, or landscape, a building or a restaurant – whatever works foryou. Just pay a quick mental visit for an instant lift in mood. If a physicalaid works for you, try squeezing a small ball, or holding a pen or some smallkeepsake.

9. Don't alwaysseek perfection

Any employee worth their salt will try to do as well asthey can in every aspect of their job. It's not always possible, though, to geteverything right. The important thing to remember is that it's okay to make amistake. It happens to everyone – even managers and senior executives. Thetrick is to recognise and embrace any mistakes you make and to learn from them.

10. Talk to yourboss

If you’re really feeling the pressure then talk to yourboss. They might not know how you’re feeling and once they do they might beable to give you more support, more time or more resource. Their priority isgetting the job done and having a team member wilting under the pressure won’thelp them achieve it, give it a go, if they say no then at least you know whereyou stand.

11. Have a plan B

A sure sign of being too stressed is thinking that yourjob is everything and that there’s no way out and no options other than to keepon slaving away. None of these things are true, no job is the ONLY job you’llever have, no role is that important and there are other employers out therewho would love to have you working for them if your current role isn’t rightfor you. Take control, take a step back and look at your options, a call to arecruiter isn’t a bad idea either… I’m just saying…