I’ve had a good month. Our March issue garnered more emails than any other since I’ve been covering the industry.

However, all of that good news actually created some anxiety. It’s the “how do I top that?” for the next issue.

Since I’m nudging toward the topic of stress (no doubt influenced by Shelly Row, a speaker at HARDI’s Supply Chain Excellence conference who suggests many of us overthink problems), it might surprise you to know that I am a productivity and organizational expert. Not for the usual reasons (writing books, training, degrees) but because I’m so bad at it. I’m an expert because I’m always in search of something that actually works. It’s rather like the reformed alcoholic who’s been there when it comes to curtailing one’s drinking habit.

My stress arrives with figuring out what topics matter to my readers. I’ve repeatedly said we’re a business publication for owners and operators in the wholesale HVACR industry. I honestly pretend sometimes that I am the owner of a distributorship or maybe a hard-working middle management type. I ask myself: What do I have in common with everyone else and what can I do to make it better? I think about the motivation factors like profit, increased earnings, ego gratification and fear of job loss. I understand that reducing stress is determined mostly by individual style, personality and preferences. However, I have a few common-sense suggestions that might help. It’s a bit random, but that’s the advantage of being the editor and a wannabe distributor.

  • Media choices. I highly recommend narrowing media sources so that you don’t fly all over the place. My major sources are The Wall Street Journal (conservative) and The New York Times (liberal). They are incredibly well-written and thorough. I like the contrast and balance between conservative and liberal, it works for me. Also, if you’re smart, you might want to refrain from the news if you find it upsetting when you’re about to climb into bed. I know this sounds sacrilegious coming from someone in my industry who has been in the news business and reading newspapers almost my entire adult life, but I understand. Free choice is the right to read (or view) the news or to refrain. Why go to bed angry or have an argument with your spouse because you’re at a different end of the political spectrum? And if you want to go with the “big picture,” try The Economist. It's the best writing you’ll read.
  • A life of learning. I have a secret that you can avail yourself of if you’ve ever been to a HARDI conference. Whether it’s a focus session or national conference, what’s always missing? The follow-up, right? You meant to share it with your team; you heard an approach that could bolster a personal management weakness. But do you follow through? HARDI posts the presentations on its app. Most of the speakers post their presentations on the app. (Thanks, Emily Savings, please keep them doing it). Then, on a nice spring or summer evening, relaxing on your deck or porch, you can pull up the content via the HARDI app and relive the presentation. (Readers, as I wrote this letter — I swear this is true — I just got an email from HARDI urging me to download the HARDI Hub app for Memphis). The good news is that you must be a registered attendee of the specific conference to avail yourself of presentations via the app. (Need I remind anyone why going to these HARDI conferences is a wise business move?) What I’m getting at is this approach allows you to avoid the boring — to some —  term “continuing education” and replace it with instant educational gratification. You can become more knowledgeable and productive long after the conference. The only time you should stop asking what’s next is when you’re pushing up daisies or your ashes drift downstream.
  • The Big Think. The four of you who read all my columns know what I mean. This is where you allow yourself uninterrupted time to think deeply and sometimes at length about a topic, usually a problem. It’s not that we don’t know this, it’s that we don’t do it. You might find it refreshing. There’s been a minor movement afoot in recent years — inspired by several popular books — that suggests some quiet time will work wonders for your disposition, productivity, and most important, peace of mind. Here’s a two-question test: No. 1, When was the last time you felt blissfully at peace? No. 2, How often does it happen?  A moment of solitude might help. Need I say more?

Geography matters. Americans might be dreadfully challenged at geography (they are), but many, I suspect, are better at finding that physical location where they can think more clearly. It might even be a place to take a nap. I had dinner recently with a young distributor (under 40). He wakes up, if I remember correctly, at 5:30 a.m. He admits to taking a brief nap to refresh himself during that occasional midday slump. I just read Girl at War, by Sara Nović, a superb novel about the Balkan War in Croatia. The author wrote much of the book on the train between Philadelphia and New York City. Most likely, you know where that “thinking” place is, even if it’s just to rest your brain or the location is moving as you ponder your next move. Just give yourself permission to use it, especially during high-stress times.

I don’t know anyone who is capable of completely eliminating stress from their lives. What I’m confident about is that my tips might ease the struggle, at least until the next crisis.