Friday, July 11, 2014

Keep calm and..?

My own "keep calm" mug...
Over the last few years the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' wartime motto has exploded into a plague of 'Keep Calm' merchandise covering every possible theme you can think of... and then some!

The weirdest one I've seen is 'Keep Calm and love Guinea Pigs' which is, quite frankly, bizarre. My favourite variant is 'Get Excited and Make Things', which emblazons a mug my sister gave my dad the other Christmas.

We may not be under wartime conditions, but staying calm under pressure can be hard can't it? Stress can be hard to deal with, whatever form it manifests itself in our lives. So what makes us stressed and how can we deal with it? 
"We may not be under wartime conditions, but staying calm under pressure can be hard can't it?"
I'm a fan of the TV series Black Books, and in the first episode Manny (an extremely stressed accountant) accidentally swallows The Little Book of a Calm, resulting in a miraculous personality change to become an extremely calm and laid back person. Sadly swallowing books isn't likely to make us less stressed, although maybe more of us could do with following the advice from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 'Don't Panic'.

For many of us, our work is the main area in which we experience stress, maybe due to the amount of time we spend doing our jobs. In my own 9-5 existence, my team provides consultancy to both internal and external clients. All our clients want a gold-plated service, as cheaply as possible, and immediately! It's the classic cost-time-quality triangle, and realistically two out of three ain't bad - although managing client expectations can be stressful all round and inevitably people feel disappointed at some stage no matter how hard you try.

Balancing the daily demands of our many clients can be stressful at times. A characteristic of working in the construction industry is that things can occur which require an immediate response, so one of the ways we deal with this particular stress is to Keep Calm and Prioritise. A tool we often use is the Eisenhower method - a diagrammatic means to prioritise tasks into urgent/not urgent, important /not important (although in our team we have a variant which is just more/less important, on the basis that everything is urgent!).
"Balancing the daily demands of our many clients can be really stressful at times."
Keep calm and prioritise!
The 'nowness' of 21st century mass communication means that many of us are now held hostage to our  email inboxes, and it's easy to get diverted away from our tasks by the next email that arrives, and then the next etc.

So after we've prioritised, the way to deal with the stress of our overflowing inboxes is to Keep Calm and Focus on the Task in Hand

Another angle on the cult of 'now' is that we can get so caught up in the daily demands of our lives that there's no time for the future.

So perhaps an antidote to the stress of daily business is to Keep Calm and Take Time to Think. It's good to take time out from time to time and give ourselves time to dream, plan and make adjustments to our course. 

Finally, when we've prioritised, focused on the task in hand and taken time to think: Keep Calm and Be Brave. It can take courage to act in a big way, likewise it can take bravery to face the same battleground each day when we have to stick at situations we need to see through. As Churchill famously said: 'When you're going through hell, keep going'

I know that many of us may be facing stresses in our lives that we can't immediately escape from. Many of you may be going through hell, and I don't want to spout trite cliches that will magically make things better. But maybe there are day-to-day stresses that these musings may help with, and I offer them in this spirit.  
"It's good to take time out from time to time and give ourselves time to dream, plan and make adjustments to our course. "
As a closing thought about dealing with stress, a quote from Paul's letter to the Philippians I read this week, which speaks for itself:

'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.' (Phil 4:6-7 NIV)

In what area do you need to Keep Calm this week? Maybe you need to:

  • Keep Calm and Prioritise
  • Keep Calm and Focus on the Task in Hand
  • Keep Calm and Take Time to Think
  • or Keep Calm and Be Brave?


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Anonymous said...

As a graphic designer. I work for two joint MDs, both aged around 60. An issue I have at work is that neither of them have any idea about time management and priorities, so often it's a case of the latest item to come in is the one to panic about. It's almost impossible to spend time on a larger project without something (or someone) interrupting.

From time to time, things come to a head and we have a big, difficult meeting about it all. Things are then better for a couple off weeks tops, then it all starts again.

I don't think they are capable of change... That's the problem.

The stress this causes is difficult to deal with and we find ourselves, as studio staff, either becoming quite disgruntled or making light of it. We like our bosses; they're nice people but on a day to day basis, it's very frustrating.

I'm anonymous in case anybody shares this! :)

I'd value your thoughts and prayers.

Random Musings said...

Good advice - stressing out doesn't help - in truth it often hinders the task at hand. Sometimes though it can be easier said than done :)
Thank you for linking to #AnythingGoes

Unknown said...

Good advice Luke. It's important to take steps to ensure that you can maintain a calm attitude even when you may not be on the inside. Proper planning, especially in the office environment certainly seems to help. I must admit, I have less success with my kids than at the office.

Modern Belle said...

I love all of this. I'm an event planner, so rather than live in a constant state of now, I live in a constant state of the future. Which ends up meaning that I find it very hard to enjoy the moment and be present which is something that I feel like your blog just really drove home for me. So I'm challenging myself to Keep Calm & Be Present. Thanks for a great post!

Martyn Kitney said...

Good advice. I struggle as it gets to me a bit much. But there's other issues involved. But I do need to keep calm. Great verse quote too. One of my favs. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week.