On the plane ride back to Texas a couple weeks ago, I caught a great New Yorker piece about Tina Fey. In it, she talked about starting out at Saturday Night Live and meeting Lorne Michaels.
During a particularly stressful week in which she had to vet a large number of proposed comedy sketches, pare the best ones down to appropriate timeframes (while also satisfying the egos of the other writers and actors), she turned to Lorne Michaels and asked, "Does the show go on because it's ready?"
"No," he said. "The show goes on because it's 11:30."
Such a great quote there that I had to go for the bold-italics-underline trifecta. It's a wonderful thing to keep in mind during stressful times.
This is such a time.
As a Brigade staff VERY close to heading overseas, we have tasked ourselves to exhaustion. As a key member of that staff, I am working at an unsustainable pace and trying to manage far more tasks in the day than there are hours in which to accomplish them.
The Lorne Michaels quote has been a huge help. I've had to brief the Colonel twice in the past two days on some heavy-duty subjects with virtually no preparation time. Rather than just be a ball of stress, I just acknowledged that the products would never be as good as I would've liked, or if I were back in Reading and had all week to prepare 30 minutes' worth of slides about Kabul.
I knew I wouldn't be ready. But I knew the show would go on because it was 1700 yesterday, or 1600 today, or whatever other "time hack" had been put out.
The other stress management technique I've been falling back on is just maintaining focus on the immediate task at hand. That's a positive step, because one hour of concentrated, uninterrupted work may be enough to cross that entire task off the to-do list. There's no reason to fret about everything else on the plate at the time -- all of that can wait.
One last note I'll make about stress: I've observed here that as certain people become increasingly stressed, their listening skills decrease proportionally. It may be because their patience diminishes, because the stress clouds their thinking, or who-knows-what-else. More than once in the past week, though, someone has asked me a clear, direct question to which I or the Master Sergeant with whom I work has given a clear, direct answer.
Whether it's because the answer wasn't what the questioner had hoped to hear, or because the questioner was just too frazzled by the day's events to take the time to listen, it became very obvious to both of us (either immediately or several hours later) that the person asking the question hadn't listened to the response.
At which point the question was repeated.
And then the initial answer was repeated.
That's what stress can sometimes do.