27 September 2023

Take the lead: How to take control of your work and reduce stress

Start the conversation

Gihan Perera* says even in a rapidly changing and complex world, there are some simple things you can do to bring more control into your work life.

Photo: fizkes

In a fast-changing world, with more pressure and greater demands, it’s not surprising that some experts say work is the leading cause of stress in Australia.

Absenteeism and staff turnover cost billions of dollars annually, and many workers now face “robophobia” – worrying they will lose their jobs to robots and automation.

Although this paints a stark picture, it doesn’t have to apply to you.

Even in an uncertain, changing, and complex world, there are some simple things you can do to bring more control into your day-to-day work.

Start with a positive mindset

Instead of filling your head with bad news or mindless social media feeds, start your day with something that creates a positive frame of mind, such as exercise, meditation, quality family time, learning something new, or reading something positive.

If you feel the need to stay informed, avoid mainstream news or social media, and instead listen to Squiz, a daily podcast that gives you the most important news in less than 10 minutes.

Whatever you choose, make it a habit, so you consistently start every day the way you choose.

Set three goals daily

Have you ever reached the end of a day, feeling frustrated and out of control because you were “busy” with interruptions, distractions, and unimportant tasks — but didn’t feel like you achieved anything?

Again, take back control by starting your day differently.

Every morning, write three things you want to achieve that day on a sticky note, and keep it with you throughout the day.

Whenever you’re interrupted by something else, ask yourself if it’s more important or more urgent than those three things.

If it is, of course, you tackle it first, but it usually isn’t.

This simple practice (which I learned from my friend, Neen James) helps you keep focused on your priorities each day.

Find meaning in your work

Younger generations (Generation Y and Generation Z) place meaningful work high on their list of workplace requirements, but it’s important for everybody.

If you can’t immediately see the meaning in the work you do, look at the positive impact your organisation makes in the lives of other people, and then consider how you contribute to that impact.

If even that isn’t enough, you might be doing it just for the money, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Even the youngest generation (Generation Z) places financial security above almost everything else.

The key here is to understand why the money matters and know how it relates to meaning elsewhere in your life.

Be an active learner

The World Economic Forum identified “active learning” as one of the key skills for the future.

In a fast-changing world, if you don’t keep learning, it’s easy to feel out of control.

Don’t wait for your manager or organisation; take control of your own learning and development.

This should include professional development, of course, but don’t limit yourself.

For example, spend $150 at Masterclass.com and you can learn humour from Steve Martin, creative writing from Margaret Attwood, acting from Helen Mirren, or cooking from Gordon Ramsay.

If you don’t want to spend any money, you can also find high-quality learning material on YouTube, Slideshare, Vimeo, and other free online sources.

Find a mentor

Fast-track your learning by finding a mentor.

A good mentor shares their experience and perspectives, giving you confidence, clarity, and a different view on both your long-term goals and day-to-day work.

For a more engaging experience, find a ‘reverse mentor’: somebody younger, a recent hire, or newer to the industry.

You might be surprised just how much you learn from somebody more junior to you.

Reverse mentoring is not yet as common as traditional mentoring, but many case studies show its effectiveness – for both people.

Be a mentor

Return the favour and offer your services as a mentor to others (if you’re a manager, your Generation Y and Generation Z team members expect this anyway).

It’s easy to downplay your experience and wisdom, especially when you don’t feel in control.

But other people can still learn from you, and mentoring helps you appreciate your own skills, as well as giving you an opportunity to help others.

Our fast-changing world won’t slow any time now.

Adopt these simple principles to take back control, so you can work comfortably with change, not despite it.

* Gihan Perera is a business futurist, speaker, and author of Disruption by Design: Leading the Change in a Fast-Changing World. His website is GihanPerera.com.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.