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This week I have been mostly exercising every two days, eating sensibly and producing like a dervish. I discovered that ‘being on holidays’ equates to ’90-120 minutes a day dealing with voluntary tasks’, in that two days of this week felt like I was one of those CEOs who claims to get a million emails a day. Every single one I dealt with generated two more, I swear. Hence this input on Stress.

Stress is self-imposed. (Cue anger.) Okay, let me temper that a bit.

On Monday I went to Cardiff Yes Group, a post-Tony Robbins event ‘alumni’ event where personal development lecturers keep the audience ‘on track’ with their commitments. All are welcome, and there are UK-wide events available.

The speaker suggested that (one of) the reasons for stress arise from overwhelm and an inability to cope with change and pressure because life/we/bosses etc haven’t allowed time for our neurology to get respite from the constant changes of direction (e.g. from interruptions like constant demands for attention from emails). That inability to cope can be genuine and physical, or it can be a perception. By that, I mean that the stress is all too real to the sufferer but if they weren’t so pressured they’d realise they could control it, if they only knew how.

In other words, the stressed individual says, “I have 101 things to do and I just can’t see a way to do it.” The individual with a control strategy says, “I have 101 things to do today and 8 hours in which to do them. Do-able.” That is 480 minutes – about 4.5 minutes a ‘thing’, and for every ‘thing’ that takes a minute, that rate expands.

Time management might seem like a management cliché but in my opinion, from years of applying it, time management properly taught, accepted, encouraged and applied is an absolute – yes, absolute – cure for stress.

Please understand, I am not talking about stress resulting from trauma, accident, disaster, relationship failures and so on. That’s different, even if some relevant TM training can help. I am talking about task overwhelm in work and in the home.

Charles R Hobbs, in his epic book ‘Timepower’, suggests that high self-esteem is served by the ability to be in control of events. I am fairly confident when I suggest that those with genuinely high levels of justifiable self-esteem (as opposed to ego) rarely suffer from work-related stress. And that is because they are, or they feel they are in complete control of what’s ‘appenin’, OR they know that they can take control – even of the unexpected. They have techniques and approaches that enable that control.

In the mid-1990s I had what I call ‘an episode’ where this 6’ tall, macho, fightin’, drivin’, chasin’, action-man copper left a boss’s office in tears and went home before his shift was due to start. (Short version, I think it was slow burn.) Fortunately, I had been reading The 7 Habits and books like Timepower for years. I went home, took the wife and kids out for a family meal, and took stock. I recognised that what was happening was a stress build-up.

Then I took control and decided what I was going to do about the situation. I was back at work within 48 hours asking for what I needed to regain control. And got it. Never happened again.

We all know of people who do the tears thing and aren’t seen for months. They lost control and didn’t or couldn’t get it back, and that was because they didn’t know that there was an alternative to pills.

Values-based time management – might not be penicillin but by all that’s holy it’s a damn good treatment for what ails a lot of people.

Try it out. My book or theirs, you decide. It’s you who controls your decisions if you want to.