In the week before Christmas, my business partner and Early to Rise Publisher, Matt Smith, set up an automated reply to all emails he received. It read something along the lines of, “I’m taking a break this week and will not be responding to emails.”

Not a problem. It was Christmas, most people were winding down the year, and there weren’t any major issues I had to discuss with him. It was a no-stress situation.

But I made a mistake, and that was in taking the message literally without confirmation. I fully expected Matt to be back online the following week. But after three more days after Christmas receiving the same “I’m taking a break this week…” response, I started to get a little agitated. After all, we were working on some relatively important projects that were to begin immediately in the New Year. Now was the time I needed to get his approval on the contracts I had sent him by email.

As you can see, small changes in expectations can lead to disproportionately larger increases in stress.

Here’s another example that I’m sure you have encountered. You wake up, whether at home or in a hotel room while on business travel, and you go to check your email. But your computer doesn’t co-operate and the Internet isn’t working. Your stress levels rise because you needed to check your email first thing in the morning for an important report, message, or meeting confirmation. You fully expected the Internet to be working and your expectations have not been met.

Contrast this to a Saturday morning when you’re at home and your spouse or your kids alert you that the Internet is not functioning. They are not able to access their email or Facebook pages, but that’s no stress to you because it is your day off and you had no plans – or expectations – to use the Internet at that time.

The same variable but with different expectations completely changes your stress level.

Stress is largely a factor of how your expectations are managed.

When running a business or managing employees, how you manage your own expectations and those of your team are critical to reducing stress and conflict. The solution to managing expectations is clear and concise communication.

Recently I was on the phone with one of my few executive coaching clients and we were discussing how to improve her schedule for productivity and to reduce unwarranted stress levels. She had been given a series of ‘homework tasks’ that she needed to complete in order to increase her work capacity while working less, and this included handing off of vital tasks to her assistants.

She reported back that some changes had gone smoothly, while others were stuck in the mud, and in fact, causing even more tension at home. When we looked at what had gone right and wrong, the answer was clear. She even pointed it out before I said anything.

The situations where the tasks had been delegated properly all worked because of clear, concise instructions given to her employees. The task instructions were specific with a clearly defined start and end time. Given the new set of rules, her employees were happy to help and had no problems freeing up more time for our entrepreneur. Expectations were managed on both ends. She knew was expected of them, and the employees knew what their boss expected from them.

It was all clear.

In contrast, where things didn’t go as smoothly, problems resulted due to a lack of expectation management. The employees thought their boss wanted X, when in fact, my client wanted Y. Or in some cases, she wanted X to be done in a different way or at a different time.

The differences in expectations were not major, but enough to cause stress for both individuals.

There’s an old saying, “Little hinges swing big doors”. This fits the task of managing expectations. Tiny misses in expectations can lead to big swings in stress levels.

The bottom line is that you must be clear in all of your instructions. It must be made clear what you expect from business partners, employees, printers, delivery men, your hairdresser, your real estate agent, your waiter, and on and on and on.

On the flip side, you must also be realistic and flexible. You cannot expect perfection. There will always be a few broken yolks in your life. But if you expect this to happen, then you’ll have the mindset to manage the set-backs. How you manage your own expectations is equally as important as how you manage the expectations of others.

When working to increase your productivity, be clear about your work goals, your work environment, your work time blocks, and what you expect from your employees and team members in terms of honoring all of the above.

Make these expectations well known and communicate them clearly. It will save you a lot of hassle and stress over time.

[Ed. Note. If one of your expectations is to build a website and make money on the Internet while working from home, then you MUST attend the Underground Online Seminar with Craig, Matt Smith, Yanik Silver, and dozens of other Internet business experts. Today is your LAST DAY to get the Early Bird Discount on registration. Reserve your discounted seat here and get ready to finally make the money you deserve with your website.]

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at