It is no shock and awe surprise that most of us spend more time working than we do on any other activity. As the pressure to do more, faster, better with less continues to mount the work day just dominates our lives. Life is becoming more and more hectic, as we all switch to a 24/7 lifestyle, thanks to Blackberrys, i-Pads, smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. As a consequence stress levels seem to be constantly rising. If we don’t want to have major health problems, we must find simple ways to reduce stress at our workplace.
Here are some working habits that we can adopt to minimize worry and fatigue at work:
1. Clear your desk of all papers except those relating to the immediate problem at hand.
The reason we have all that paper around us is we are filing it on our desk. TRAF it instead.
Toss it away. Whenever I look in my physical files, I always notice that there is a lot of paper which I never look at and never need. At the magical point of deciding to toss or file, I utter these fatal words to myself, "I had better keep this in case I need it". Years go by and I never needed it. In fact, I have usually completely forgotten I even had it in the first place. I am sure I am not alone. So let’s toss it out early rather than later.
Refer it to someone else for action. This is Delegation 101, but most of us are weak on the delegation front, mainly because we don’t do it the right way. Normally, we say dumb things like, "It will be quicker if I do it myself". When we do actually get around to delegating tasks, we just dump the offending documents on their desk, tell them to take care of it and then breezily glide off into the distance. Instead, we need to have a proper conversation with the delegatee on why doing this task is in their interest and map out the follow-up process.
Action it. Either we knock it off right there and then, if we can do it in under two minutes or we should park it and add it to our To Do list, prioritized for a later time.
File. Before you take the plunge and file it, ask yourself if you really, really need this information? Maybe you only need a small part of it, in which case take a photo of it or get that bit into Evernote or some similar alternative.
Some workplaces have adopted the paperless nirvana and everything is scanned and stored digitally. The team get a tiny little wheeled cabinet to hold everything! I look at that and say to myself, "if they can do it maybe I can do it too!".
2. Do things in the order of their importance.
Major insight - not all bits of paper have the same value!!! Prioritising work is a must. We can’t do everything but we can do the most important things. We just need to decide what they are and start there.
3. Learn to organize and delegate responsibility.
This is similar to Refer except that with expert delegation the task never arrives on your desk in the first place! You head it off at the pass, and make sure it is re-routed to the delegatee. Our job is to discuss the task with the delegatee before they start work on it. Monitor their work to make sure they are on track and then let them do it – don’t buy it back under any circumstances
4. Don't keep putting off problems.
Having said that though, there is both positive and negative procrastination. Deciding not to do something now may be the best choice. We just need to be aware that this is what we are deciding. Negative procrastination is not doing something we should, when we should be doing it, because we are immobilized through fear of making a decision. When you have a problem, solve it then and there, if you have the facts necessary to make a decision. As the saying goes, "if you have to swallow a frog, do it in one gulp!".
None of these ideas will be news to any of us. We know, but we don’t do. We understand but we don’t apply. We get it, but we do nothing about it! Simple works best, so let’s get started with some simple solutions to our work overload.