Demanding circumstances are a daily part of life. But at some point we end up hitting a mental threshold where the emotional strain and tension become so overwhelming we find ourselves in stressful situations.
Over the years, I realized a majority of my stress was self-induced. Instead of taking a proactive approach in managing the chaos around me, I allowed my life to be dictated by the surrounding environment. Sound familiar? Continue reading.
The Hamster Wheel Effect
The Hamster Wheel Effect is a term I use to describe a person trapped in a continuously routine. The Hamster represents a person “stuck” in a chaotic environment trying to hopelessly accomplish the infinite number of tasks represented by the Wheel.
It is easy to fall victim to the Hamster Wheel Effect if you are prone to these three contributing factors:
- You allow outside influences to dictate your life choices
- You allow yourself to be inundated with unrealistic tasks
- You allow routine to prevent innovative thought
Now imagine for a moment the Hamster Wheel is a tool used to accomplish a goal and you have the ability to get in or out of the wheel at any time or determine how fast or slow you want to go.
Applying this in real life: Once you realize you can control your environment, it’s easier to identify the tools around you and how to use them to your advantage.
My Secret to Controlling Stress and Chaos
There are three basic rules I follow to help manage the Hamster Wheel Effect in my professional and personal life. If you are interested in reducing the stress and chaos in your life, read on.
Problem: You allow outside influences to dictate your life choices
Solution: Rule #1 — Be Self-Managed versus Micro-Managed
Are you tired of having your every move scrutinized? Being micro-managed is a pain and the best path towards anatomy is to get upfront alignment on your goals and agreement on how you will be measured towards accomplishing the tasks identified. Remember, being proactive is key. If you don’t take control of the situation, someone else will.
- Know your personal limitations and focus on your strengths
- Make sure to communicate status often to build confidence on progress
- Define solutions instead of asking for permission
Problem: You allow yourself to be inundated with unrealistic tasks
Solution: Rule #2: — Quality over Quantity
This does NOT mean you need to strive for perfection, but rather understand your maximum velocity without sacrificing quality. Simply put, don’t take on more than you can handle. Remember, the short term accolades of accomplishing a bunch of tasks is not worth the longer term perception that your work is unreliable.
- Understand what you need to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it
- Understand the definition of quality from the perspective of your customer
- Understand the time frame in which you need to complete your work
Problem: You allow routine to prevent innovative thought
Solution: Rule #3 — Work Smarter. Not Harder.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “If it’s not broke don’t fix it.”? In some cases, this phrase may hold true, however, I believe there are always opportunities in exploring alternative ways to work smarter.
One of my favorite examples of working smarter was a study done on how ancient Egyptians moved massive stones to build the pyramids. The study concluded that water was used to wet the sand, helping to reduce friction when transporting heavy objects across the desert. A clever trick (physics) solved the mystery of how large stones made their way to the middle of the desert without mechanical assistance.
Similarly, challenge yourself to find a more proficient way to accomplish your tasks. Don’t allow repetition to stifle your ability to think outside the box.
- Be self-aware. If you find yourself stagnant, pivot in a new direction.
- Surround yourself with smart people and learn from others.
- Be curious. Don’t always take things at face value. Ask the question why.
Getting out of the Hamster Wheel
You have a choice on how stress and chaos impact you. Take a proactive approach to managing your environment by organizing your life, focusing on quality, and identifying efficient ways to accomplish your tasks. By doing so, you’ll be stepping out of the Hamster Wheel in no time.