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Top 4 books on reducing work stress

Who doesn’t want to be happier at work? Most of us are at work for an enormous percentage of time so it makes sense that it’s as pleasant an experience as possible.

These are my fave books for helping to make your vocational journey as relaxed, productive and satisfying as you can possibly make it.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff at Work – Richard Carlson, PH.D. – Bantam Books, 1999

Don't Sweat The Small StuffI bought this book at an airport. I’d just been on a three week holiday and was about to start my 15 hour flight home. Needless to say, going back to my crazy busy job was certainly in the back of my mind. I devoured this book on the way home – it’s a really easy, simple read with 100 mini-chapters of positive truths that can be easily applied to anyone’s life AND was interesting and, at times, quite hilarious.

Chapters include:

  • Don’t Dramatize the Deadlines
  • Stop Anticipating Tiredness
  • Remember the Motto, “You Catch More Flies with Honey”
  • Remember the Phrase, “Being Dead is Bad for Business”
  • Don’t Let Your Own Thoughts Stress You Out
  • Don’t Get Stressed By The Predictable
  • Accept The Fact that, Every Once in a While, You’re Going to Have a Really Bad Day
  • Before Becoming Defensive, Take Note of What’s Being Said
  • When You Solicit Advice, Consider Taking It
  • Take Advantage of Your Commute

Incredibly, after reading this, I wasn’t concerned about my holiday being over – I was looking forward to getting back into the office. My job is fun, challenging and I work with some truly wonderful people but at the time of post-holiday tiredness, it took this book to remind me of that. Best of all was also learning a few key tricks to keeping things on track and improving not only your quality of life at work, but making you super productive too.

I love this book and have lent it to countless friends who have been moaning about their vacations ending and I regularly still flick through it if I feel as if I’m beginning to lose my grip on any semblance of work / life balance. Big tick from me!

Work as a Spiritual Practice – Lewis Richmond – Random House, 1999

Work As A Spiritual PracticeAuthor Lewis Richmond was a practicing Buddhist Priest who lived in a retreat for over 15 years. He left the retreat and began living on the “outside” in the real world, but continued to apply all of his Buddhist teachings to his daily life, including his work. He’s now not only a Buddhist teacher and author, but also a software entrepreneur (his company is the leading provider of inventory management software to the catalog industry).

Most people associate Buddhism as living with calmness, kindness and compassion but in ‘Work as a Spiritual Practice’, Richmond explains another side of Buddhism: the active, engaged side that allows us to find creativity, inspiration and accomplishment in your worklife. All at the same time as meeting your KPIs and ensuring ROI!

This book provides over forty practical methods and techniques for applying Buddhist spiritual practices in the middle of your workday. (Note the use of the word practical – this isn’t wishy-washy unrealistic weird holistic stuff).

It proposes that the workplace can be a place of spiritual opportunity and inner growth, and describes practices and techniques, from exercises in breathing and awareness to visualization, non-judgmental listening, generosity, and gratitude, to encourage that growth.

Dividing workplace experience into four broad categories of Conflict, Stagnation, Inspiration, and Accomplishment, the book addresses issues of money, power, ambition, and greed, illustrated with numerous real-life stories.

No matter what your rank and station on the job, Richmond says, you can be in charge of your own state of mind, because you are always “the boss and chief executive of your inner life.”

Maximum Achievement – Brian Tracy – Fireside, 1993

Maximum AchievementBrian Tracy is certainly one of the fore-fathers and front-runners of life coaching, personal development, time management and all that that entails. As a professional speaker, he addresses over 100,000 people every year on personal and business success. This book has sold over 4 million copies and is considered a bit of a “bible” in the world of success and personal achievement.

This book isn’t about reducing work stress as such, as the subtitle indicates, it’s about introducing you to “strategies and skills that will unlock your hidden powers to succeed”.

It’s a big read but it’s fascinating and positive. You can read it straight through or stop along the way to complete the exercises. Although I usually hate books with lessons that they want you to fill out, I couldn’t help but take the time to complete them as they really help you to work out the kind of person you want to be, what your goals are and exactly what you want from life.

Tracy doesn’t draw from just one discipline when creating his guidelines – they’re from psychology, economics, religion, history, philosophy, politics and more – which results in a very well-rounded advice which I personally appreciate and respect.

I’d recommend this book purely because of the strength it offers. Whether you want to learn how to make a billion bucks, get along better with your family or colleagues, stop procrastinating or decide what the hell you want to do with your life (or just the next month!) this is a good starter.

How To Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress – Anna Maravelas – Career Press, 2005

How To Reduce Workplace Conflict & StressWith a subtitle of “How Leaders and Their Employees Can Protect Their Sanity and Productivity From Tension and Turf Wars”, you get a feeling for what this book is going to be about! I started it feeling that perhaps I was going into battle but it’s written with a warmth and grace that’s helpful, passionate and kind, not fiery, angry or bitter.

This book explains many of the types of tensions and environments in any workplace and Maravelas’s solutions to them. These are often illustrated with some great real life examples from some of the US companies that Maravelas has worked with which go a long way in making you grasp a better understanding of where she’s coming from.

Chapters include:

  • The Self-Defeating Habits of Otherwise Brilliant People: Getting Duped by the Dazzle of Contempt
  • Curiosity Makes You Smart, Sexy and Successful: The Most Important Habit You Bring to the Table
  • You Can Be Effective or Self-Righteous – Pick One: 5 Reasons to Ditch the Hostility and Blame
  • Creating Cultures of Appreciation: Respect, Pride and Fiscal Responsibility

In a nutshell, it’s honest and practical. It’s nowhere near as simple and easy to understand as ‘Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff At Work’ but it does delve into human relationships and the psychology behind them in much greater detail.

Hope that one of these books help to make your work life a little easier.

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