Become More Efficient by Paying Attention to Stress

Periodically, I do Bikram yoga.  For those of you unfamiliar with the practice it is a grueling 90 minute workout in a 110 degree room (yes, it’s that hot intentionally).

Bikram instructors tend to be in incredible physical and mental shape and when I first started doing Bikram 7 years ago my goal was to be just like them!  Instructors recommend (ok, push) class-goers to observe Bikram 5-6 times per week in order to “get the FULL benefit”. 

However I have found more gain from my practice by only going once a week (or sometimes less) which got me thinking: who is right, me or the instructors?  Am I wrong to think that I know more about how Bikram benefits me than people who have been trained in the practice for years?

This led to a more general inquiry and I began to contemplate: how can we begin to recognize our “most effective ways of being” amid all the conflicting information out there?

For me, I am at optimum efficiency when spreading attention over several different ventures.  When exercising, I benefit most by having a scattered and unscheduled routine (hence going to Bikram 5 times a week does not vibe).

Similarly, when working (at my job) I know that spending over 90 minutes on one task is not effective.  It’s usually around this time that I start to feel pressured and stressed…and over time I have cultivated the good sense to switch gears and work on something else.


Perhaps the first step in determining your proficiency meter is to become aware of the first moments you feel stress…for it is here when you start to lose efficiency. 

It is important to note that there are two general types of stress:

1) Inevitable stress–tension that comes from thinking about issues within a project or task

2) Avoidable stress—tension derived from a general obligation, or feeling, of having to work on a task at all

Even people who truly love what they are doing experience “inevitable” anxiety at times.  It’s the avoidable strains that you must become more aware of…because it is here where your effectiveness starts to lose steam!

Next, query yourself about the nature of your attention span.  Are you the type of person who enjoys focusing on one project over a long period of time, or are you most effective when juggling many tasks? 


My father worked as a research analyst for 30+ years, a job which often entailed him working on one assignment for days and weeks at a time.  For him, this was an ideal situation and enabled him to enjoy his work while feeling successful.

Ask yourself: Do you feel invigorated by spending hours, days and weeks on one project?  Or conversely, do you thrive on managing many assignments at the same time?

These are crucial questions to ask yourself as you begin to understand how you are at your most effective!  Too many people in our society feel like they are swimming upstream, and are battling to

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maintain some fictitious status quo…and it does NOT have to be this way! 

Determining the manner in which you are most efficient can do wonders for your productivity at work, at home and in the greater landscape of your life. 

Start bringing awareness 1) to when you feel stress and 2) to your attention span and see how these attributes play a role in inhibiting you from being as proficient as you can!

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2 Responses to “Become More Efficient by Paying Attention to Stress”

  1. SootheSayer says:

    Sometimes we actually become addicted to stress. Those hormones, the flight or fight ones, are heady–they are heightened and electric–they feel like a drug. Our adrenal organs cannot keep putting out however and we bottom out, so we reach for caffeine to give us that renewed boost.

    The bad news is stressaholics are setting themselves up for depletion then dysfunction.

    The good news is stressaholics can be rehabilitated. There are many avenues to relaxation and deep restful sleep. It can be a learned behavior. Do not mistake habit for trait. Avoid saying, “I can’t relax” or “I’m hyper”… instead we should be telingl our brains what we want them to do

    Just be willing to change, eh? Start by ceasing the martyr complex that goes along with working too much, too long!

    sorry if I’m preachy!

  2. SootheSayer says:

    Hi Todd, I was wondering how one gets to be on your “blog roll” ?

    thanks–your blogs are very informative!

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