How to “Win” as a Professional in a Highly Competitive Space

Posted by on January 9th, 2013

During the past few years, several industries have skyrocketed in terms of brand priorities; communications and technology are two such industries. Whether you believe in making work-related New Year’s resolutions or not, every successful communications and technology professional constantly strives for greatness in an increasingly crowded and competitive space. A new year means new campaigns, new clients (if you are lucky!), new challenges, and new deadlines.

If you have been in the communications/technology industries for a while and you feel that recently you have been asked to work harder for less, you are not alone. In Inc. Magazine’s, “7 Ways to Be a Stress-Free Workaholic,” Silicon Valley consultant Steve Tobak explains that this sentiment is a reality:

“If it seems as if you’re locked in a downward spiral of trying to do more with less, it isn’t you. It’s for real. That surprising array of macro factors creates stress on all of our businesses and on all of us. We try to manage it as best we can, but at some point, things break. Systems break. People break. That’s the nature of stress.”

However, while brands continue to prioritize communications and technology high on their lists, if you want to achieve success and “win,” then learning to become Tobak’s version of a “stress-free workaholic,” is your best option.

Tobak’s 7 ways to beat stress:

  1. Work your tail off when you have to, not when you don’t. – My favorite of Tobak’s advice, this tip promotes balance. Know when it will be most beneficial to buckle down and know when leaving the office at a decent hour will benefit you more than burning the midnight oil.  If you push yourself too hard, then your long hours will be overshadowed by your insanity.
  2. Learn to give up–sort of.Step away from the keyboard. Put your iPad down…and stop thinking. Tobak advises that inspiration is most likely to come during that moment between being awake and asleep, or while you are in the shower – but usually not when you force it.
  3. Strategize and plan. – When your “To-Do” list induces a panic attack – this is when Tobak advises that you walk away. Be it alone or with your team, going out for dinner or taking some quiet time to mull over your obstacles is the best way to develop a strategy for tackling beastly objectives.
  4. Mix business with pleasure. – Another tip that involves going out to dinner! But in all seriousness, Tobak emphasizes that many times delaying your completion of a project by a few hours to have a few laughs with coworkers will result in higher morale which, in turn, increases effectiveness. Cheers!
  5. Don’t leave things for the last minute. – While every professional knows that sometimes a rushed deadline is out of your hands, it is in the best interest of your stress levels to provide a buffer. Tobak points out that if you look closely, more often than not you have more control over your time than you think. Devote a few quiet moments to scheduling and do your best to get things done ahead of time. Your end result will be stronger because you won’t feel down to the wire.
  6. Don’t take it out on others. – When you work in a team, no matter what your position, your stress levels affect others. The same rule applies to your relationships outside of work. Tobak warns that if you don’t have an outlet for your stress that isn’t alive, you will burn bridges and end up alone.
  7. Lots of outlets work–pick one or two. – Don’t rely on the same stress relievers day in and day out. A cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine after a long day is great, but if you constantly spin yourself into a caffeine and wine cycle, you will burn out.  Rotate your stress relievers.  Your health will directly affect your ability to “win.”

While many of these tips are familiar, actually practicing this way of thinking is harder to implement. So the next time you feel your heartbeat quicken at the sight of your “To-Do” list, remember: being a workaholic is fine, but only beneficial if you are a stress-free one. Once you learn to recognize the signs of burn out in yourself, you will be able to help others avoid the same doomed fate…and that brings you and your team one step closer to “winning.”