Five Ways to Manage Stress On the Jobsite

Even the best construction job sites aren’t what most people consider placid, calm, or relaxing.

In fact, construction job sites are some of the most stressful places in the world. If you’re a construction site supervisor, or even managing just part of a job site, some of the stats from Harvard University’s studies on workplace stress sound downright cushy — things like the average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate, or that most modern workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day.

Did these guys take a look at your project list? Has the professor seen your mobile phone bill lately?

Of course stress is a relative thing, but the stress of managing people, budgets, materials, equipment, safety, and the occasional turf battle in construction takes its toll, no matter what kind of project it is.

But that’s the job, right? Not much to do about it.

Or is there?

We looked around and found there are actually some practical things you can rely on to turn down the heat, and they don’t all involve turning the job trailer into a yoga studio.

Here’s five we thought deserved to be on your list:

1. Be realistic about what you can control and what you can’t

There’s plenty to get riled about when a contractor or supplier doesn’t show up, but if there was an accident on the freeway, or a truck had a flat, there’s not much you can do about it. Likewise, when somebody’s melting down over things you can’t do anything about — the weather, a supply shortage, a key player on your team is down with the flu — recognize where the problem is, explore alternatives, but with things that the insurance companies call “acts of God,” losing your cool gets everybody nowhere fast.

2. Manage the interruptions; don’t let them manage you

Emails, phone calls, text messages and sudden, urgent deadlines delivered over site radios can take a real bite out of a good plan. You might not be able to control the person who’s doing the interrupting, but you can control your response (see above).

Handle interruptions in one of three ways:

  • Accept it and own it yourself.
  • Cut it off and ignore it.
  • Evaluate it, prioritize it, and make a plan to engage available resources (including other people) to deal with it.

If interruptions are recurring and can be anticipated, decide ahead of time how you’ll manage it. That way you can just deal with it without all the baggage that comes with getting angry or frustrated.

Of course this is easier said than doe, but if you can decide that the first thing to do with an interruption or distraction is to decide on technique 1, 2 or 3, you’re most of the way to a productive solution.

3. Prioritize your priorities multiple times in a day

With as many changes we juggle in construction every day, a task list does nothing but get longer every few hours.

So don’t let two hours pass without re-evaluating the key things that need to get done. You might go from dozen to-do’s to 18 or 19 items on your list during the day, but there’s still only eight hours (okay, maybe 10 or 12 hours) to get stuff done.

Regularly check to make sure the most important things for the project and for you get done. The rest gets evaluated later to see if makes tomorrow’s list.

If you’ve got 10 pounds of stuff and just a five-pound bag, something’s got to give or you’ll end up with a giant mess.

Easy tip: Use the alarm function on your phone. (Yeah, it’s another interruption, but it’s a good one.) Get creative with the alarm sounds to remind you to take a minute and review — save the scream from the movie “Psycho” for the third time you hit the snooze function.

4. Take a deep breath

So, okay, those are few things you can do to manage stress, but what if it’s too late, and your blood pressure’s rising and you want to crawl through the phone engage in a little pugilistic therapy with the jerk on the other end of the line?

Sounds simple, but one of the best things you can do to chill out is just take some deep breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale deliberately and slowly through your mouth a few times. Some people say it’s like getting the calm and focus of a 90-minute yoga class in three minutes or less, and you don’t even need to visit the mall to pick up those yoga pants (unless you want to?).

Want to take it up a notch?

Navy SEALS and other badass stress-fighters use what they call “box breathing.” Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for four, exhale slowly for a count of four, and hold for another count of four before taking the next inhalation. Do it for four minutes.

Stress? What stress?

5. Manage your information efficiently

Use SKYSITE construction document management software. It’ll keep all your information where you can find it easily and quickly — including that well-prioritized to-do list, and instructions for that cool Navy SEAL “box breathing” technique above.

That’ll help relieve a ton of stress, too.

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