I had known and liked Omar for years; we attended many of the same conferences, and when I told him I was a stress consultant, he joked that unfortunately he wasn’t likely to need my services. Early in life, he had accurately sized himself up as a modest performer, and he had found his natural level in a small company supplying washroom towels and soap dispensers to lower-end clients throughout UAE. The Janitor, people called him.
Watching his more ambitious friends, and their struggles at coping with stress, he believed he had found the stress-free life he sought. Clients came back year after year, partly because of the pleasant and unhurried atmosphere in his office, and the natural good manners he displayed. This also contributed to the team-building agenda – retaining staff who knew they could earn more elsewhere.
But then came email. He said he could feel in the air that it was the enemy of the quiet life. And this was confirmed by events. Suddenly a crisis atmosphere took over, as standard – whether or not there was any genuine emergency. There was no such thing as a solid hour, only sixty lots of one-minute panics. This killed all attempts at concentrating on a problem. In fact, the time-saving aspects of email seemed to be outweighed by the inefficient time-management that they encouraged.
But it was when he found himself turning into completely different personality, rude and impatient with colleagues and clients, that he decided to dig out my card from the bottom of his file, and ask for a stress consultation.
Fortunately, I was able to reassure him that there were well-tested solutions to his problem. He ought to realize that inbox management – compressing files, keeping the ‘new email’ alert switched off etc. – was a necessary drill, to be practised like driving a car. Efficient archiving, integrating emails with calendars, reporting spam … All put together, these significantly relieved the stress of daily business.
I still detected an unspoken lament. How could the simple world of roller-towels and hand-cream generate such high tension? Just what had happened to that nice stress-free career he had settled for? I told him he must improve his attitude to managing change – learn to embrace the email way-of-life with enthusiasm, not reluctance.
Later he told me he had forced himself to do just that, and was now confidently in control of his emails – and his stress. I said it was like coming home from the dentist.
“That wasn’t so painful, was it?”
Does email stress you out? Leave a comment and let us know.
[Reproduced with the kind permission of Gulf News]
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