As kids around the country head back to school, it’s prime friend-making season. Some lucky kindergartners are meeting classmates who will be lifelong pals, awkward middle-schoolers are finding each other, and college kids are… well, they’re meeting people in all sorts of ways.
Today I’m thinking about more than just childhood friendships, though. I’m thinking about social support in all its forms, and how having high-quality social connections affects productivity.
Social Support, Stress and Time Management
I suspect that if you’re a busy professional, you recognize that having some stress helps you be productive. Knowing that the mortgage is due every month, and knowing what will happen to you and your family if you fail to pay the bills, is inherently a source of stress.
Deadlines, client expectations, performance reviews and successful competitors are stressful too. But those are some of the factors that compel you to go to work even when you don’t feel like it, right? They’re stressors, but they’re also motivators that push you to do your best work.
So, yes, some stress is good.
That’s hardly a new realization; in fact, it’s the basis for the Yerkes-Dodson law, a theory that two psychologists formed in 1908. They illustrated how mental or physical arousal (stress) affects performance, using a bell-shaped curve. Low and very high levels of stress both correlate to low performance.
Optimal performance, according to the Yerkes-Dodson law, occurs when the stress level is just right – high enough to be energizing, but not so high as to affect things like memory and problem-solving abilities or so high that it puts you in overwhelm.
We also know, thanks to both research and our own anecdotal evidence, how emotional support helps combat stress. For one thing, in the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America study, the average stress level was 6.3 out of 10 for people who didn’t have emotional support. People who did have emotional support had an average stress level of 5.0 out of 10.
Think about a time when you were totally overwhelmed at work and took a break to FaceTime your partner or grab a coffee with a friend. Even a quick jolt of connection with a loved one can bring down your stress levels and adjust your perspective, right?
It comes down to this: Having social support diminishes stress. Too much stress interferes with productivity and time management. So if you’re struggling to fit everything into a day, taking a break to connect with someone supportive could actually help you save time in the long run.
Your Social Support Network
What’s nice about the concept of social support is that it’s really broad. You don’t have to be part of a big family and surrounded by lifelong friends to get the productivity-boosting benefits. Your support network also doesn’t have to be big!
Imagine you’re in the middle of an especially stressful workday, and you have to finish a project by 5 p.m. It’s noon, and you’re already panicking about time management and getting everything done. Who could you reach out to for encouragement and a reality check in that moment?
Who could you talk to for five minutes, knowing you’d feel better and more confident afterward?
If you can come up with at least five names, you probably have a secure social support network. It might include family members, friends, co-workers, mentors, neighbors, a therapist, religious leaders and even strangers.
Technology can be helpful in allowing us to instantly connect with far-flung loved ones, and in helping us make new connections. Some people develop strong supportive relationships with Twitter friends they’ll never meet!
The power of social support is something I know well. It’s part of the reason I love my 90-Day Time Matters Boot Camp. I know how hard it is to make real change in your life when you’re doing it alone.
When you join this boot camp, you’ll get my ongoing support as well as the tools and strategies you need to change your approach to time management. Click here to learn more about this program!
And if you want to talk to me and find out if this program is for you or if I can help you, schedule a Time Matters Success Strategy Session with me to learn more! Click here to schedule your session!