Examine the Relationship Between Stress and Productivity

Last Updated on June 15, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

Something I’ve seen many times in my career as a business coach is the trend of the overworked, anxious, stressed-out leader.  The relationship between stress and productivity seems obvious: the more you push yourself to be productive, the more stressed you are.  But believe it or not, this isn’t always the case.

A woman leader meditates at her desk depicting the relationship between stress and productivity

The Stress Performance Curve

The Yerkes-Dodson stress curve states that being nervous or slightly agitated can increase our performance levels, much like an athlete in a championship game.  A certain amount of work stress can hone our focus, while adrenaline helps us complete the task.  This can be incredibly beneficial in a pinch. 

However, this is only true to a certain extent.  Once we become stressed beyond that beneficial sweet spot, our performance decreases.  It makes sense in a work context: a harried, anxious employee can easily miss details or let projects fall through the cracks.  The relationship between stress and productivity is a finicky one. 

Navigating the Relationship between Stress and Productivity

Learning to navigate the relationship between stress and productivity is the difference between wallowing in your anxiety and using it to your advantage.  Here are my top tips:

  1. Read The One Minute To-Do List by Michael Linenberger.  Michael outlines the following tactics: make three to-do lists.  One is for long-term items, one is for upcoming issues, and one is for critical tasks.  Focus on accomplishing the five most essential items daily, then rewrite the list each night for the following morning.  This will help you manage your time. 
  2. Sometimes you need an outside perspective to evaluate your processes.  Hire a business coach to help walk you through your organizational structures as they are and implement better solutions. 
  3. Identify your top stressors.  Do tight deadlines make you sweat, or is your kryptonite the clutter of a crowded inbox?  Once you know what makes you tick, you can set up processes to eliminate those recurring factors from your work life. 
  4. Try to reframe your stress as excitement.  These two feelings inhabit the same place in your mind, so many symptoms feel the same. For example, instead of saying, “I’m stressed about this presentation,” think, “I’m excited to share my work with my colleagues.” Positive thinking has a long-term impact. 
  5. Learn to recognize your own personal “point of no return.  Monitor your stress levels against your productivity and see when you tend to taper off.  If you know the stress level you can handle healthily, you can take steps to prevent spiraling when you feel your stress level building. 


While everyone struggles with workplace stress, few people know how to turn it into a superpower. Yet, harnessing the relationship between stress and productivity can make all the difference in your overall mental health. 

Need further help with your stress management skills?  Just fill out my contact form to schedule a complimentary video coaching session with me to evaluate your relationship between stress and productivity.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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