The Trap of the Stress-Work-Relief Cycle

Sometimes, the most fitting action we can take is to do more work — but not always. And when I’m not careful, that option can become my default always. This is even easier for me when working from home where the boundaries between work and not work are tenuous. Let’s explore how this happens and how to respond to it..

When we have more work than we can do in a given timeframe, we often feel stressed.

Are you tired of hearing “fine” and “good” when you ask people how they are doing? My brother shared that fine was an acronym for “fucking incapable of naming emotions.” That being the case, perhaps we can ask different questions that make it easier for people to answer authentically so we can connect at the depth we are hoping for.

Try any of these:

1. What was a weekend highlight?

2. What is something exciting or challenging going on in your non-work life?

3. If your internal state were the weather, what would the weather be? (You can obviously switch…

Picture by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

Your company has suddenly gone from a completely or mostly in-person workplace to a totally remote, work-from-home policy. Some people are flourishing. Some people are flailing. And many are reckoning with this adjustment at the same time as managing increased levels of anxiety due to the coronavirus.

Having worked from home two or three days a week since 2015, I know small shifts can make big differences. Below are 4 simple, actionable, high-yield practices that you can implement immediately to make the most of your remote setup and meet people where they are. Perhaps you will find yourself thinking that…

Photo by SOULSANA on Unsplash

So you have accepted the new remote reality, and now you want to make the most of it. You’ve read tons of tips (here are my top 4), but wonder, How do we get there?

Here are 4 simple steps:

1. Game Plan Meeting

Address the need for new norms in a meeting with your team. Ask questions: what are they finding that is working well for them? What needs work? …

See here for Part I.

Fist bumps are still optional.

Psychological Safety

Put simply, we want our colleagues at work to help people by creating great products or services and improving bad and mediocre ones. This relies on people speaking up with their ideas and questions — even the ideas and questions we aren’t sure are good at first. The environment we create is the most powerful determinant of whether that sharing happens across our teams.

How do we create those environments?

Definition & Impact

Actionable feedback from our teammates is a great start. It lets us know very clearly where we stand with them. This both…

Fist bumps are an optional addition.

Grow Out Loud

“In an ordinary organization, most people are doing a second job no one is paying them for…most people are spending time and energy covering up their weaknesses, managing other people’s impressions of them, showing themselves to their best advantage, playing politics, hiding their inadequacies, hiding their uncertainties, hiding their limitations. Hiding…The total cost of this waste is simple to state and staggering to contemplate: it prevents organizations, and the people who work in them, from reaching their full potential.”

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization

We often work not with our colleagues, but with their defenses. At…

Mastering Your Work — Self-Management, and Mastering Your Work with Others — Communication & Constructive Conflict

See Intro here.

Masterful Self-Management


When you sit down (or stand up) at your desk, do you know exactly what you will do?

Are you on fire or putting out fires? How do you manage for peaceful productivity?

What does your calendar look like?

What is your mindset towards stress and learning?

When you sit down (or stand up) at your desk, do you know exactly what you will do?

This building block is the doing. All the little things. Each of the preceding building blocks are structures that, when well designed, set up interactions that maximize team…

See Intro here.



· Where does all that happen? It happens when people come together — that is, in meetings.

· Are meetings really necessary?

· How do we ensure meetings are focused, productive, and result in action?

· How do we support collaboration and creativity in meetings?

Are meetings really necessary?

Meetings are a microcosm of a team or organization, epitomizing both its virtues and its shortcomings. At its core, a meeting is just a gathering of people working in some manner toward their desired ends — this means that, in many ways, meetings are the…

See Intro here.



· How will we decide how to enact our vision?

· What are the possible decision-making processes? Who plays what roles in which decisions, and how can those roles be changed?

· What if people don’t like the decision? Do we need full commitment from those affected by the decision, or can we settle for compliance?

· What will we say “no” to?

How will we decide how to enact our vision?

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman writes, “Whatever else it produces, an organization is a factory that manufactures judgments and decisions. Every factory…

See Intro here.

This section is longer than the others because it informs all of them.

“If you wish to build a ship, do not divide the men into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.” –author unknown


Why does your organization exist? What impact are you creating, and for whom?

Is this vision clear, shared, and perceived to be both attainable and valuable?

How would you LIKE TO behave in the pursuit of this, and how do you ACTUALLY behave?

What common pitfalls…

Jack Cohen

Voracious learner applying evidence-based insights to help values-driven workplaces. Founder, Brain-Based Workplace, LLC.

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