Stressing the need for better time management

26th October 2020, 15:02


One of the biggest causes of stress in the modern workplace is the inevitable toll of deadlines.

We can all appreciate how unpleasant it is to have two hours to do three hours worth of work or to have to cram sleeplessly the night before a crucial exam.

You wonder: how did it come to this? After all, you only spent two hours a day this last month searching for Tik Tok videos of ‘cats falling off things’ in a fit of procrastinatory nihilism. 

...it’s not like it was three hours.

With that in mind, let's look at some well-known tips for good time management that can help reduce your stress and anxiety in the long run.

 

1. Prioritise

How are you going to break down the tasks at hand? One way to do it is by thinking about what your goals are for your work, or your next big project? Are you looking to learn a new skill? Is there a particular financial target that you just want to hit? Maybe you’re angling for a promotion? If so, which of the work tasks at hand are best suited to this goal and deserve more of your time and energy?

This is a more positive approach. But another, arguably reactive way to evaluate multiple tasks is to look at their consequences. Between four tasks, A,B, C, and D, what will be the consequences if A is not done on time? What is the deadline for B? How long will it likely take to do C? 

Using these questions alone can sometimes be sufficient to help decide what is most urgent at any given point. If A and B are very serious tasks then one should spend more time on them. But if you know they have a very manageable deadline, there is little harm in completing C or D if you know they are only going to take a few minutes and they will be out of the way.

 

2. Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Once you’ve decided on your priorities it can be tempting to dive in and get going. However, it is usually worth taking some time to plan out exactly what, how, and when you want to do things. Even if it takes a little time, having a well thought out approach to a problem can be a real help in breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. 

With this comes the opportunity to give yourself occasional rewards as milestones are passed. This might seem trivial, but it can actually be a useful way to keep yourself motivated, especially with longer projects.

 

3. Focus

That being the case, it’s important not to get unduly distracted. Especially today, with the myriad of social media options and ‘cat’ videos available at your fingertips, that can be easier said than done. 

There are different ways of tackling this. One is to just block certain sites that you know that you will be tempted to look at, but this can simply increase temptation in some cases. 

Another option might be to allocate yourself a certain amount of time to check these so-called ‘problem sites.’ For example, set yourself a routine of 20 minutes work, 10 minutes off - with an addendum. If you find yourself becoming particularly involved in a task, or ‘on a roll’ so to speak, not to artificially interrupt yourself just to check your chosen distraction page. 

 

4. Course Correct

Likewise, larger-scale plans can also be subject to change. We’re all well aware of how chaotic the modern work environment can seem and we should be adaptable enough to cope with this. You never know when some unforeseen, urgent request could arise. 

In this case, rather than succumbing to a mad scramble and throwing all plans into disarray, it's best to try to reorganise plans around this new requirement, to accommodate it into the existing schedule as best as you can. To help with this, it's often a good idea to have easily accessible reminders of project schedules and targets - although not to overdo it, as this can itself be a trigger for anxiety for some. 

In much the same way, it's a good idea to have support services on hand should you need them. This means both professionally and personally. It's good to have sufficient lines of communication open with colleagues and management in order to report difficulties and request support as appropriate. But this also goes for personal support as well. Stress and pressure can affect anyone, and it's a good idea to safeguard your productivity by looking after your own physical and mental health where necessary. 

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5. Stay mindful and be weary of negative thoughts

As they say: even the best-laid plans go awry. It’s worth bearing this in mind when they do. You can make all the necessary arrangements, take every precaution and there is still the chance that something will go wrong. 

It’s easy to get down on yourself when this occurs, especially if it happens frequently. It’s important not to let these negative thoughts take root. This can be difficult in high-tempo, stressful industries. 

Remember, these events are more likely to be ‘typical for the environment,’ rather than ‘typical me.’ Having the right support on hand -whether a friend or a professional can be the right thing to help many in preventing issues from spiralling or becoming entrenched.

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