"There are no second acts in American lives." ( F. Scott Fitzgerald )
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Time Management Tool : The Stress Diary

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , | Add Your comment

THE SECOND ACT GET COMFORTAs mentioned in the Introduction to the Time Management Series, make self-observation the starting point to managing your time differently. Don’t try to change immediately the way you organize your day. That would be a waste of time. You need to get some distance from yourself first. Start by finding the answers to 7 questions that will help you identify your time management capacities. (Read Questions 1-3 here, Question 4 here).

Q#5 How do you manage stress ?

Time management and stress management are closely interrelated : poor stress management will trigger poor time management. Poor time management will bring about stress. But stress is not always « bad » : it is simply your body’s response to anything that upsets your balance.

Good stress boosts excitement, thrill, energy. It helps you focus, meet your challenges and your deadlines. Bad stress undermines your productivity, your time management efforts, your self-esteem. It causes heavy damage to your health and quality of life.

What’s your limit ? How much stress is too much for you ? What is stressful to you ? Is stress caused only by external factors or is it also self-generated ? How do you respond to it ?

The easiest way to find the answers to these questions is to start a short-term (2 weeks) stress diary, like the one shown below (from Mind Tools) :

Make daily entries in your diary for two weeks ( 3-5 times a day is even better). Write down the mood you are experiencing. Also, make an entry after each particularly stressful event. Besides date and time, write down how happy/unhappy you felt at the time of the event, on a scale of 0 to 10 (most unhappy to happiest you’ve ever been).

You also want to record how stressed you felt at that time on a 0 to 10 scale (most relaxed to most stressful you’ve ever been) ; the symptoms ; the fundamental cause ; how well you managed the situation – did your reaction solve the problem or worsen it ?

You will start to feel the benefit of keeping a stress diary from the very first week. After two weeks, proceed to analyzing your diary :

  • list the most frequent stresses ;
  • list the most unpleasant stresses (write down the most unpleasant at the top of the list) ;
  • list the recurrent stressors (situations that cause you stress) ;
  • look at how you managed those stressors : how they affected your well-being, how you behaved, how stress influenced the outcome of the situation…
In another post, I will tell you about some simple tools meant to reduce + plan + manage stress, helping you to become better prepared for stressful situations. But these tools are useless if you don’t start by keeping a diary and working through it. Analyzing your entries is a powerful tool in itself : it reveals the frequency and the importance of stressors in your life, it shows you the limit to your ability to tolerate stress and the level of stress at which you feel happiest.

It also helps you to become aware of your reactions and the symptoms you show when under stress. Next time you will feel them, you will identify the causes and manage them much better. And this will help you manage your time even better.

Back to :
The Introduction to the Time Management Series.
Part I : Observe Your Capacities.
Part II : Excellence vs Perfection.

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