Why Stress Can Make You More Productive– For A Little While


This article was inspired by Jan Bruce’s piece for the Huffington Post. To read the original, please visit this link.

When it comes to your productivity, could being told you’re not productive enough motivate you to be more so?

Check out this classic piece of psychology that experts often call the Yerkes-Dodson Law: more than a century ago, back in 1908, two researchers named Yerkes and Dodson realized that lab mice were harder workers and performed better when they were experiencing a certain level of stress. But after these “dancing mice,” as the psychologists goofily referred to them as, underwent too much stress, their overall performance plummeted. 

Now let’s get back to the human realm: could you be a “dancing mouse” and not even know it? Consider this: as the pace of your classes, work, and personal life all begin to ramp up, it should be a time for increased ambition, greater hope, and also some anticipation, as your personal expectations about yourself could feel high and revitalized. The dancing part in this scenario, though, involves that moment when your expectations are so high, they could actually lead you to fall into a totally unproductive state, completely exhausted.

Think about a massive home project you’ve been meaning to do, for example: how about repainting your bathroom? Reasonable enough, right? While that goal in and of itself isn’t too daunting, what if you included a deadline as well: like getting it finished before the weekend that your in-laws will be coming into town. And– on top of that– you want to finish a trim using another color. But that’s not all– why not include a gorgeous rose plant surrounding the window? After all, the in-laws love the appearance of flowers decorating a home.

By the end of what was initially such a mundane expectation, this new set of expectations can feel overwhelming once you try to accomplish them; by Friday evening, you’re more likely to be an overworked mouse, without even the first coat finished, than a productive one with everything finished, rose plant decoration included.

Managing your expectations usually involves noticing your own symptoms of feeling overwhelmed, before you then identify the expectations that are causing that feeling and nipping them in the bud. Being realistic about what you can expect from yourself is the first step in becoming less stressed. If you know you take a little longer than others to actually see a goal through, give yourself a little slack and you will never be disappointed. 


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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of bobbi vie

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