It may surprise you, but the main reason why we get stressed isn’t that we have “too much to do”. For most of us, having too much to do is perfectly fine as long as we know what our priorities are and if we can have a good overview of our work. Instead, the plague of modern office life is that we have too MANY things to do and that we loose track of it all.
Here are some tips to help you discover an easy, effective way of managing your work. These simple techniques have been proven time and time again. In essence, the secret to avoiding getting stressed and overwhelmed is taking charge of your time.
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. Stress is often more about not being able to remember exactly what needs to be done than about having a lot to do.
2. Write it ALL down! In order for a to-do list to be beneficial to you, you need to be able to have confidence in it. If your to-do list doesn’t have ALL the things you need to do, you’ll still have that nagging feeling that you might not be focusing on the
right things, or that you’re forgetting something.
3. Channel interruptions to your to-do list. Interruptions are inevitable when working in an office, or working with clients. The key to dealing with interruptions is to accept them and integrate them into your workflow. 95% of all interruptions are either very quick questions that can be immediately dealt with, or they’re large enough that they can be just added to your to-do list so you can get back to what you were focusing on.
4. Don’t let your email inbox become your to-do list. Receiving emails can be great fun, and can even boost your self-esteem. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to confuse your inbox with your to-do list. Every time you switch over to email and read a new message, you lose focus on whatever you were working on. The key here is to only scan your email inbox once every hour or two. If you lack the discipline to do this, you can set your email client to only download messages at certain times. Turning off notifications helps too.
5. You don’t have to do everything! If I had to choose a single reason why people fail with to-do lists, it’d have to be that they lack the ability to strike things from it. Priorities and situations change and so should your to-do list. If you are uncomfortable with deleting tasks, create a “storage” list and move non-immediate tasks to there.
6. The Nibble. Let’s face it, some tasks are big, vague, or genuinely boring. All too often, these tasks get postponed forever, and never leave our to-do list. Eventually, the to-do list becomes filled with these types of tasks, leading you to just avoid looking at it – thereby spoiling the point of the list in the first place. The trick to managing this is “The nibble”. Break major tasks down into smaller components, making sure the first step takes less than 5 minutes to complete. Then, just take it one step at a time.
7. Not my time of day – Listen to your own rhythm. Let’s face it. We’re humans, not machines. At times we’re productive and at times we’re not. It’s a little like a surfer who times the waves, then rides them to their fullest. Find a task management system that lets you monitor your own “waves”. Just because your computer functions all the time doesn’t mean you can or should.
8. Play! You got into this job for a reason. Sure, some parts of the day are inevitably mundane or frustrating. But at least part of work ought to be fun. Make your work into a game by setting small targets and rewarding yourself.