Episode 18: Spring Cleaning Work Stressors

March 25, 2021

Our goal at CGL is to change the narrative around work. We want to create a thoughtful and conscious work environment that’s a healthy place to work. Changing our lives starts with changing the narrative we tell ourselves. This is one of the hardest things to change, but it is a worthwhile mission.

Today I am talking about this with Jenny Gumer, one of the partners here at the firm. A big part of changing our mindsets around work is reducing workplace stressors, so Jenny is sharing the top 3 things she has implemented to reduce her stress and increase her productivity. Tune in and you will learn how to spring clean the work stressors in your life, too.

In this episode, you will hear:

  • Why stress-management is meaningful to Jenny.
  • Why individual responses are vital to creating a healthy work environment.
  • How turning off notifications can reduce stress.
  • Email management advice.
  • The positive impact of having a health and wellness routine.

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Transcript from Episode 18:



email, stress, notifications, respond, stressors, work, helpful, response, important, folder, impact, burnout, slack, turned, talking, longer, inducing, conversation, task, jenny



I’m your host Hannah.



I’m Tom.



And I’m one of the founding partners of CGL. What if you could speak with top business leaders and CEOs about their professional insights and personal journeys. Each week, we share authentic discussions with business leaders, where they flesh out substantive issues while also getting deeper into their authentic stories. Our goal is to bring you conversations on the fusion of business and humanity, success and authenticity, and the challenges of balancing life and work. Thank you for joining us. Hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of conversations with CGL. Today, I have I mean, I’m biased, but one of my favorite guests such as also one of our partners here at the firm, Jenny Gumer. And today we’re talking about I think, kind of a fun topic, last legal focused and more kind of wellness and health-focused, you know, spring is around the corner. I don’t know if anyone else has spring fever like I do. But I am very excited for warm weather and sunshine. And so one of the things that we wanted to talk about our spring cleaning, work stressors, and kind of this as part of our brand and approach of really kind of having a thoughtful, conscious work environment, that’s a healthy place for you to work. And part of that is eliminating certain stressors from your environment. And that’s kind of the discussion that we wanted to have today. So Jenny, thank you so much for coming and joining and kind of talking on this topic today. Oh, it’s my pleasure.



I’m so happy to be here. Thank you, Hannah.



Yeah, so let’s maybe kind of start what kind of compelled you to come on today, cuz you were the one that kind of brought up this topic. So I would love to learn more about kind of why this was something that’s meaningful to you.



Yeah. So it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of eliminating or reducing stressors. So obviously, Legal Services is stressful. And we’ve done our best to build CGL to avoid some of those big stressors that we all experienced in big law, like the minimum billable hour requirement, high minimum billable hour requirements, but there are just a certain number of stressors that are inherent in legal services and any other client services or fast-paced industry. And to be totally honest, I have been feeling the effects of those stressors quite a bit recently. And a few weeks ago, I would even say I was peering over the precipice at burnout. And then I realized that I really need to take action to protect myself from the negative impact of those stressors. Because, again, CGL has done, I think, amazing work to try to reduce those stressors. But I know that part of it is on me to take care of those as well. So I’ve been brainstorming and implementing various ways to do that for myself, and to hopefully encourage our attorneys and others to implement such stress-reducing actions.



Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s such an important point to raise, because we talk a lot about building you know, a workplace that supportive of our team and doesn’t pick off those stressors. And yet, there does come a point where it’s an individual’s response to it, you know, I mean, I’ve had super, super stressful moments when I’ve been working in every environment and super stressful moments when I haven’t been working. And at the end of the day, a big piece of it, you know, or kind of like one of the most vital pieces of it comes to the person and kind of how you’re responding to it. And so what I think is really important about this conversation. And this is what we’re trying to infuse in our team as Yes, we’ll go as much as we can, as an employer, but also it takes educating ourselves and proactive kind of protection on ourselves to not get caught into that cycle of stress. Because stress is stress. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed about what you have to buy in the grocery store, or stressed about a like multi-billion dollar transaction stresses stress. And that impacts us regardless of what the stressor as So, Jenny, I’m so glad that you’ve been kind of thinking about this. I think this can be really helpful for people, especially our listeners, I mean, our team, of course, but our listeners, you know, those are particularly stressful times with everything that’s going on in the world. So would you mind sharing kind of some of the things that you’ve been exploring?



Yeah, for sure. So the first thing is quite simple, but so so so impactful, and that is turning off notifications. So for me, I turned off all push notifications for email and other work communications like slack on my phone and computer and I also turn off notifications for texts and kind of personal stuff as well. But that’s always been the case. But recently, I’ve turned it off for work applications as well. And it’s been a game-changer. When I had those notifications on it sounded like I was like in a Vegas casino. I



was just getting bing bing bing all day long, not to mention so I did the same thing a couple of years ago turned off notifications. I turned off the badge. icons as well, because I would look at my phone and see all these like red things. And immediately my responses have been failing, I’ve you know, I’m but whatever, I mean kind of turning off and then having control like I still regularly check email on my phone. But when I do, I’m consciously going into like right now I’m looking at my email I’m not like grabbing it in response to a notification I got while I’m driving or something, you know, those notifications are designed in a way to distract us from what we’re doing. So I can definitely attest to that being such a huge form and it doesn’t pull away from your productivity, if anything, it makes you kind of much more intentional and conscious, whether you’re writing a text message or responding to email or slack. So I think that’s a great one, kind of maybe if you can speak a little bit about that, you know, kind of like, what was that impact for you like me, it was monumental and like lessening stress.



Yeah, absolutely. So I would say for me, it’s been at least a two-fold impact. So first, I mean, I can actually focus on whatever task I’m doing. And I can see it to completion. Before I was, you know, it was difficult to work for longer than a five-minute interval without a notification coming through. And like you said, these things are designed to capture our attention. And so my instinctual reaction to notification would be to immediately open the message, the email to see what it says, and it would totally derail any momentum I had built on that task. And for obvious reasons, that’s really inefficient, I would have to then go back to the task, remember where I was, rebuild that momentum again, only to be derailed five minutes later, and even if I could exercise the self-control, not to open the message or email, which is rare, because again, it is designed to make us do that my concentration would be disrupted still in a way that negatively impacted the progress. And then additionally, what you were talking about just kind of but the impact on the body and the stress that those notifications can trigger. So studies have shown actually, that notifications trigger our fight or flight response. And for those that aren’t familiar with what that is, I think most people are but just in case, it’s you know, this response that evolution has hardwired into us to allow us to successfully evade predators. And what happens when that response is triggered is a release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. And those are really helpful when you’re trying to outrun a tiger like our ancestors were, but not so helpful when the source of the stress is the emails. So you know, it’s not very helpful to have cortisol coursing through your body just to respond to an email. And instead, those hormones increase the feelings of stress, you just feel more stressed out. And then that kind of clouds, your judgment, clouds, your concentration, so every time I would get a notification, I could like feel my blood pressure rise. And that’s bad. I mean, it’s bad for concentration, it’s bad for psychology. And those hormones can have a long-term negative effect on the body, they have been tying that kind of fight or flight response to inflammation, which is a precursor to like a whole host of other diseases and conditions like heart disease, etc. So needless to say, there are several good reasons to turn off your notifications.



Definitely. And there’s even you know, there’s been kind of all sorts of studies on like focus, and when you break concentration, and then the amount of time it takes to get back into that focused state. And so not only is that kind of causing that immediate fight or flight stress, but your lack of focus kind of can translate into lack of productivity, lack of efficiency, you’ve got more on your plate, you’re getting less done, you know, that creates long term stress, so kind of not getting through projects. So it’s just like a kind of downward spiral, you know,



totally, it’s bad for you as a person as a human and your body and it’s bad for your work and your employment, bad on every level. So that one change has such a huge impact.



It also kind of I mean, I’m knowing this, and I’ve been kind of doing it for so long, being fair there is I remember when I turned off my notifications, and quite honestly, I was scared. I was like, what am I gonna miss what happens? You know, when I’ve realized anything that’s been urgent, someone has called me that tool still works very well. And anything else I’ve just make a conscious effort to kind of, you’re still connected. You know, I’m still connected. I still constantly responding to emails from my phone and slack and whatever. But there’s something about you being in the driver’s seat of that piece that makes such a substantial impact not only on your responses, but also just kind of your physical well being



totally, exactly. And so yeah, I will go and I’ll check my emails still multiple or slack multiple times an hour, but like you said, it’s on my schedule, not slack schedule.



Exactly. So it allows you to kind of stay attentive to other things. Okay, so that is a great tip. And I know that that was like so helpful for me. What about Do you have any other tips you’ve been thinking about that would be helpful for us?



Yeah, so this one I also did a few weeks ago and has also been a huge game-changer. So my setup or rule on my outlook that causes all emails, I’m not in the to line have to go to a separate folder, I call mine the CC folder rather than directly to my inbox. And then I checked that folder regularly throughout the day, maybe once an hour or so. I’m interesting.



Okay, I’m kind of I would love to hear a little bit about the impact.



Yeah, so first of all, it clutters my inbox in a way that helps me actually be better about responding to email, I can more easily identify and focus on the emails that are most important for me to respond quickly. So it actually makes my response times quicker and prevents emails from slipping through the cracks. Because you know, if you’re getting 100 emails at a time, and you’re having to sift through them to see which ones you actually have to respond to, the chances of one slipping through the cracks are much more likely than if you Garlington only getting you know, 10 emails and you know, you have to respond to all of them very relevantly to this conversation, it has reduced my stress levels, it was really stress-inducing for me to wake up in the morning and scroll through my emails, that’s a conversation for another day, I need to fix that habit, I need to not pick up my phone first thing in the morning. But that’s what I do. And when I would do that, and I had, you know, multiple multiple scrolls were of emails, I felt like I was already behind on my day, which is like a really stressful feeling to start the day with. And that would set the tone for the day. And similarly, if I would step away from my computer during the day, for whatever reason, it was so stress-inducing to come back to like 30 emails all at once. So, now that I’m just really getting the to line emails I wake up to, or come back to only like five to 10 emails at a time, which is much less stress-inducing, and has been amazing.



And I’m guessing you have a process for checking those cc emails and kind of similar to the notifications piece we were talking about, it’s a little bit more on your own time, if say you were copied in something and somebody needed your response, they’re going to send you an email, they’re



going to kind of follow up. Exactly, yeah. So I will go into my cc emails, maybe once an hour or so. And I will go through them. But when I’m going through them, I’m much less stressed out about them. Because I’m like, likely I don’t have to do anything here. So I’m just going through to make sure I, you know, nobody accidentally forgot to put me in the to line. But that’s a game-changer.



Yeah, that’s a good one. I think email management in general kind of coming up with a system is so important. I read this somewhere. And this is how I manage my emails, that’s also been a game-changer is any email that you can respond to. So I go through and I can have any email you can respond to in two minutes, you take care of you act on every email, so I only read an email once and I either respond to it or I create so my Asana which I live by is connected to my email. So if I need to do something that’s longer than two minutes, I immediately create a task in Asana or I delegate the email, you know, kind of respond, delegate or create a task for myself to address like your kind of cc process. There are tons of tools out there for like how to manage email, I read this one and like a CEO, blog, something, but I think the point is finding practice with email that you can adhere to consistently You know, I’m a big folder person, some people hate folders, whatever, like find kind of a method that works for you. But I think kind of those allocating is kind of like having a system for filtering. So cc filtering, assigning, or delegating all of those are like crucial, because the way that email goes these days is really hard to keep on top of it.



Totally. Yeah. And just like the notifications, we want to be in the driver’s seat of responding to these emails, rather than them controlling us because that lack of control in and of itself is a huge stressor. Exactly. Yeah,



the folders. One is a big one to having kind of like folders for promotional things, or I have one like for news where I have all these kind of publications that you’ve subscribed to, and I hope to read through all of them, but I can’t read through all of them every morning, you know. And so sometimes when I have time, I can go through that folder and kind of find things that are relevant, but getting it out of your inbox. Okay, so that’s also such a good one. What are kind of some other stressors are like spring cleaning, work stressors, kind of tools that you found have been helpful?



Yeah. So the final thing I want to share today is that I’ve been making time for my wellness routines, which I think can be different things for each person. For me, that means meditating and doing yoga three to five times a week and getting out of the house for at least a 15-minute walk every day. And you know, unfortunately, when I’m busy, these are the first things to go, which is unfortunate because when I’m busy, I’m more likely to be stressed. And these are tools that really helped me manage and reduce stress. So I get busy, I get stressed, I stopped doing these practices, the stress gets worse because I’m no longer engaging with the tools I need to process the stress in the most efficient way. So I determine that making time for these things is nonnegotiable, that no matter how busy I get I have to carve out time and space for these things. And not only am I less stressed, but I’m more efficient, I think that’s related, the more stressed you are, the less able you are to think clearly, the less efficiently you work. So when I’m actually doing these things, I’m more efficient. So I have the time to even when I’m busy, because they’re making me more efficient, I actually open up more time for myself to tackle the work that’s on my plate. So I think that’s so important. And it sounds so simple. And I know I’m not the only one out there, my friends and I talked about this all the time, how we want to do these things, do the yoga, do the meditation, and how easy it is to let these things fall by the wayside when you’re busy, because nobody’s holding you accountable, but yourself. And actually, I’ve gotten to together with a few friends and we are starting to hold each other accountable for doing these practices, we text each other every time we do a meditation, which has been really great and helpful. So I recommend that actually, as well. But it again, sounds so simple, and yet it’s so hard to do. But it’s so impactful.



Totally, it’s so important. And I think that, you know, we talk a lot about that here at CGL. And it’s a challenge in the world we live in today, because we live in a society that puts so much value on how much you work, like the amount that you work is kind of a type of currency. You know, I mean, I know that that’s something that I have worked to overcome, I still kind of a work in progress, when I have moments of like, I need to stretch or go for a walk or take a break, there’s still this voice that’s like



slacker or you’re not



producing enough or whatever. I mean, I live and breathe kind of this mission of what we’re trying to do. And it’s like these old habits are hard to break this going against kind of like what society deems is the right way to work. There’s a lot involved in that. And then we tend to be for whatever reason, humans, we tend to not keep the promises to ourselves like we do to others. And so I think that that one’s so important, I know for sure that I am better at everything, if I am, you know, doing my self-care kind of rituals, which for me is exercise, taking breaks, you know, kind of taking breaks throughout the day, that one was something that I had to kind of relearn how to do. And even if a 10 minute just moment of pause can make such a big impact in your productivity and kind of in a world where hours spent working versus value output. You know, it’s hard, it’s kind of hard to reshift that, but like really, really so important. So important. Again, it’s like this whole process because the more stressed you get, the closer you get to burnout, the less you’re working productively, you know, the whole thing at all, like contribute. So



yeah, you hit that you can spiral out of control,



we’ve talked about that. I feel like we did another podcast episode where we had a guest on who was talking about burnout. And one of the things that he was talking about was that like carving out time for this and prioritizing it, you know, like that walk that 15-minute walk that you do is incredibly important and should not be missed, you know, that’s part of like a productive work day. And just like reef shifting, you know, kind of changing the story and the narrative about how we think of those things. So



totally, totally. And that’s our goal at CGL is change that narrative around work. And we have to start with the narrative we’re telling ourselves, and that can unfortunately be one of the hardest ones to change. But very worthwhile, worthwhile mission. And I think that we both are very passionate about so Absolutely. Well,



this has been very helpful. I feel like I learned a few tips from Jenny here. And I hope that’s been helpful for all of our listeners. We love to get your comments and questions. So if you want to continue kind of in the conversation, feel free to send us a note at info at cgl-llp.com And we will respond there. But Jenny, thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. I feel like I’m going to go take a little tea break. I think we have another call right after this. But I’m going to take a quick tea break and then jump on our next call. So I’m kind of following our own advice here.



Perfect. And so go ahead I’ll do the same.



Okay, thank you. Thanks, guys.


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