Feeling Stress or Distress?

I work for a small, non-profit organization.  By small, I mean there are a few full-time employees, a few part-time employees, and as many volunteer as we can muster.  My main responsibility is to work with our local affiliates.  There are over 20 of them, and 1 of me.  I am also involved in planning our annual conference, supporting our programs, and learning a lot about things like 501(c)(3) organizations and tax-related matters.  It would be accurate to say that I have a full plate and the plate is quite large.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining.  I enjoy my job.  I work with some great people and I meet great people all the time.  But it can be stressful.  It can feel like I am out of control.  Sometimes, I take time just to get organized again.  Sometimes I try to plan my day and then unexpected things happen which mess up my plan.

In my career, I don’t think I’ve ever had a job quite like this one.  Most of the time, I was able to manage my own projects, my own schedule, my own time.  Sure, I was often busy, but not like this.  I suppose I am still adjusting to the pace since I’ve only been there for about 5 months.  And we just had an office move which through things for a loop for a while.

So I have to learn to reduce the stress.

I had a meeting with my boss today and we talked about my projects and priorities.  In our conversation, I discovered what is causing me the most stress.  The mains source of my stress is that I focus on what I have not done rather than what I have done.  I think this is probably common for a human being.  Once something is done, it is out of sight, out of mind.  But those things that have not been done yet tend to hang around my neck like an albatross.  They weigh me down.  They cause me to worry.  And I don’t want to be asked if I have done them yet because I hate having to say no.  I guess it’s analogous to having a painful area on your finger.  You seem to always hit that spot and feel the pain again.  You focus on it because it hurts and you never think about how often you hit other areas on your finger because there is no pain.  You notice the pain and you are conscious of the pain.

When I look at my task list, there are several things in progress and several things that haven’t been done yet.  This is what I think about.  This is what stresses me out.  But, there is a much longer list of work items which I have completed.  So, just like positive thinkers who focus on the good things, just like optimists who see the glass as half full, just like the people who focus on progress rather than perfection, I have to focus on how much I have been able to do, which in 5 months is pretty amazing.

It’s time to feel good about my accomplishments.  The things I have not done yet will be there waiting for me when I get to them.

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