Canadian Contractor

Robert Koci   

Measuring efforts to reduce stress

Canadian Contractor

"It's not straightforward measuring contentment, or happiness, or stress. But if you can’t measure them in the process of trying to reduce them, you can’t tell if your efforts were a success."

My coaching client needed a way to reduce his day-to-day stress levels and had a plan in place to do so. He had a new hire coming up and was finding a way to take the bookkeeping duties out of his wife’s hands so she could concentrate on project coordination, which would lead to more changes that he saw were going to be part of the solution.

They were positive moves, certainly, but when it came time to measure the success of the moves, he was stumped. He wasn’t looking to reduce his work hours or increase his pay or the revenue of the company. “The change I am looking for is more qualitative. What metric is there for that?”

It got me thinking. How do you measure something nebulous like stress level? How can you say definitively if you are happier as a result of some action you’ve taken? There are certainly scientific ways, but those are not available to us in an easy-to-use (and inexpensive) form.

I asked him what he could identify as indicative of him being under stress. He named a few he thought relevant, and we discussed what those things would look like if he was less stressed. Were they things that, if he were less stressed, he would stop doing? If he was where he wanted to be, would he be doing them but enjoying them more?


It not straightforward measuring contentment, or happiness, or stress, but if you can’t measure them in the process of trying to reduce them, you can’t tell if your efforts were a success.

In business, quantifying results is important, so the following table is my attempt to come up with a simple, clear way to measure if changes not related directly to the bottom line are effective.

This spreadsheet took a couple of minutes to create. I thought of the things I might use as indicators of my stress or happiness that are not quantifiable in terms of money or hours or clients. In the first column I wrote questions that I could answer by ticking off a rating from one to five. A simple 1-to-5 answer grid beside the question is where I can put a check mark indicated how I feel that day, or week or month.

If there are four questions and five options, you have a total of 20 points you can reach for total happiness/contentment/stress-freeness. It’s a nice neat quick measure.

Filling this out once won’t help, of course. That just gives you a baseline. Go back to the same questions daily, weekly or monthly and then compare. Progress with your efforts to improve the situation should be indicated by a rising score as your programs are implemented. It’s a crude system, but maybe, in the absence of a better metric, it will help measure your progress and make changes to your plan if necessary.

If you try this method of monitoring success in your initiatives, email me  or comment below to let us know what you liked or didin’t like about this spreadsheet.


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