A Reader Writes:
Work is stressing me out! There is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. No matter what I try to do to get organized, something always seems to come up and completely derails me. I’ve become that person at work that misses deadlines and follows up with colleagues at the last minute. I don’t know how this happened. And now, my disorganization is spilling over into my life outside of work. I use to be that person who could remember everything and could always be counted on. Now I am just frazzled, overwhelmed, and stressed! Somethings gotta give, but I don’t know where to begin.
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort – Paul J. Meyer
Balancing work and life can be overwhelming and stressful!! However, it may surprise you to hear that the main reason why we get stressed isn’t that we have “too much to do.” For most of us, having a lot to do is perfectly fine as long as we know what our priorities are and we feel that we have some type of control in managing our time. This is incredibly difficult to achieve. The reality of our work life is that we have too MANY things to do, minimal control over getting things down, and we may even lose track of important tasks. The result – STRESS!!!
The good news is, there is a solution that you can employ that will help you to manage your work more effectively. The simple secret lies in taking charge of your time. Here are a few strategies to consider:
1. Write it down! I never cease to be amazed by how often stressed out people try to keep all the things they have to do in their heads. I’ve sat in meetings with a number of individuals over the years like this and often observed how they NEVER took notes. Outside of meetings, these folks were often stressed, unfocused, and often performed out of panic and imminent deadlines. This kind of stress is often attributed to knowing that they have a lot to do but not being able to remember exactly what or not being able to appropriately plan.
There are many methods to taking notes and staying organized. Many take notes electronically, and there are a variety of apps to download on your smartphone that can keep you on track. Personally, I have been using a planner throughout my work career where I am able to plan by the day, week, and month. The key is to find a tool that works best for you.
2. Write EVERYTHING down! If you commit to taking notes and writing down your to-dos, it should contain ALL items that need to be done. Otherwise, you will still have a nagging feeling that you forgot something and may still find yourself performing out of panic.
3. Incorporate interruptions in your to-do list. Interruptions are a part of life and cannot be avoided. Keep in mind that many interruptions are very quick so you can deal with them immediately. If something requires more time and consideration, defer it to a time when YOU decide. Many are use to addressing interruptions in real time, so it will seem a bit uncomfortable to defer items at first. But keep in mind that you will be managing your time effectively so that you will be able to provide the needed attention to what needs to be addressed.
4. Don’t let your email inbox become your to-do list. Most of us are on email all day. It’s become the norm and necessary evil in our work day. As a result, it is very easy to confuse our email inbox with our to-do list. Here are a few tips to managing email:
Manually scan your email inbox once every hour or two. You also can set your email client to do this.
Only send/answer emails at specific times of the day (i.e first thing in the morning, mid-day, end of day)
Scan your inbox for items that require immediate and quick responses, then plan time to address other emails at a later time.
5. REMEMBER, you don’t have to do everything! If I had to choose one single reason why people stress, it is because they tend to take on more than they can reasonably handle. An important lesson to learn is that you do not have to say yes to everything. So look over your to-do list and decide what can be delegated, removed, or pushed out to a future date. If needed, work with your manager so that expectations are in alignment.
6. Create bite-sized chunks. Let’s face it, some tasks are big, vague and even boring. As a result, some of these tasks may get postponed and never leave the to-do list. Inevitably the list becomes filled with these types of tasks and the motivation to tackle them sinks to an all-time low. When this happens, it is very easy to find something else more enjoyable to do. But the problem is, these tasks may not go away and become a source of stress.
A helpful approach is to breakdown tasks into bite-sized chunks. Break the task down into smaller and more manageable components. Make sure that the first step can be easily completed so that you will be motived to move to the next step.
7. Listen to your body circadian rhythm. Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed that you have more energy at certain times of the day. There may also be other times where your energy is at a low. Make an effort to plan tasks that require more focus and energy for when you are the most alert.
8. Take a mental break and add some fun to your day! Whether it is grabbing a cup of coffee with a co-worker or going for a quick walk, taking a break can help to lower your stress level and help you to recharge to face the rest of your day.
Ok, time to put some of these tips into practice. Even making one change or two may start you down the path of feeling less stressed and more in control of your environment
-Wishing you continued success!
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