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Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress

Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress

As someone who spends her days designing offices and organising office refits, I know what it’s like to feel like I’m losing control of my daily tasks. In an age where people in a range of industries are expected to manage multiple clients, crucial jobs and more menial tasks all at once, organisation is everything. This is especially true when you consider how much workplace stress has risen since the start of the recession.

While absence levels have fallen, 40% of employers recently reported an increase in stress around their workplace. This comes with its own set of problems, as employees go into work unwell and unproductive, and even at risk of serious heart problems.

While completely eliminating stress from your working day isn’t a luxury many people have, I’ve found there are plenty of ways you can streamline your day to day tasks to get yourself organised and start to lower your stress levels.

Delegation doesn’t equal laziness

I often find myself staring, horrified, at my intimidating to-do list. No matter how many tasks I manage to tick off others crop up to replace them almost immediately, meaning I’m constantly on the go and struggling to section off my time.

If this sounds familiar you may also have experienced the feeling that this is your work, so you alone should complete it and, if you’re as good at your job as you think, you shouldn’t be getting behind. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the best of us struggle to keep up with the fast paced world of modern work sometimes, so don’t be afraid to delegate certain tasks to others.

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Share the load with your team

If you’re a senior member of your team like me, I find that passing on simpler tasks to junior team members can eliminate a surprising amount of pressure. With me it’s Photoshop work, simple 2D plan work and product image searches, but niggling tasks in any industry are the ones that keep getting pushed aside until later, build up without you really noticing and then loom out of the gloom with a stressful vengeance, just when you think everything is done. Plus, I find they take the fun out of the working day, so saving the more complicated and creative tasks for yourself is an ideal way to inject more interest back into your work.

Share the load with freelancers

Now, I do understand that not everyone has the advantage of heading up or working as part of a team, but there are still ways you can delegate your menial tasks.

Upwork and Amazon Mechanical Turk are both great web platforms where you can submit jobs for their thousands of freelancers to complete on your behalf. These freelancers do obviously ask for payment, but the rates are wonderfully affordable and more than pay for themselves in the time they’ll free up in your busy schedule.

Lists are your best friend

If you work in a role where your tasks are constantly changing and adding up, keeping track of them is essential to organising your thoughts and not forgetting about certain jobs. I find the best way to do this is by making lists.

If, like me, you’re particularly forgetful, you’ll rely on to-do lists to keep track of your work and keep yourself focused throughout the day. You might also find that you’re losing your paper lists among the rest of the documents surrounding your workstation, which is why I thought I’d share my favourite little organisational app.

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Introducing Wunderlist

wunderlist

    Wunderlist is an online to-do list that is actually pretty ‘wunderful’. As well as simply entering your tasks, it gives you the opportunity to keep track of and organise your workload on a deeper level.

    You can set due dates on your tasks and set reminders to go off when you’re approaching a deadline, drag and drop tasks into order of urgency, add sub-notes within tasks, share your to-do lists with other team members or work mates, and even delegate tasks to them. There’s even a Wunderlist app for mobile and tablet so you can add tasks to your lists during meetings on the fly. Brilliant if you struggle to store action points in your mind!

    One of my favourite ways to organise my Wunderlist tasks is in lists created for each specific client or project. This way I don’t have to deal with the confusion of one long task list, or the intimidation that can stem from having a large number of differing tasks grouped together.

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    Manage your emails, don’t let them manage you

    omnifocus

      The first thing I do when I get into work is switch on my computer and check my emails. The bad news is that rather than having a few to reply to and a couple to action into Wunderlist tasks, I’m often faced with an amount in double figures all clamouring to be dealt with “ASAP!”

      While you might log into your emails meaning to simply check them before getting on with the bulk of your work, the reality is that emails can sap a lot of time if not managed correctly. However, whether you’re dealing with just a couple of demanding clients or a large number of clients all at once, there are things you can do to regain control of your inbox.

      Flag things that can wait

      Don’t feel obliged to act on every single email right away. Unless something is super urgent, I always flag emails that can be properly read or dealt with later on. I use this technique with important emails rather than urgent ones, because there is a distinction between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Identify what kind of issues and requests classify as urgent within your company and you’ll already have some of the formula in place to better manage your emails.

      Organise your mail with folders

      It isn’t just the sheer volume of emails that can eat into your working day, but the variety of places they come from. From your various clients and colleagues to additional email accounts you’re managing in the same client, they can all get lost among new correspondence from another before you know it.

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      Rather than trying to remember when you received each one and becoming increasingly more stressed when you can’t find it, create different folders to keep track of emails relating to everything from different clients to different tasks and projects – whatever takes priority in your industry.

      Become one of those people you can ‘never get hold of’

      I’m going to get a little controversial here and recommend that you process your emails in 20 – 40 minute bursts around 2 – 3 times per day, and keep your email client closed the rest of the time. I mean closed too, not just minimised.

      I spent the first week of trialling this in a state of panic, especially since I have a client who does the same thing and, as a result, is murder to try and reach! That said though, it’s now a regular part of my working day and I find that it gives me so much more freedom. Having your emails completely out of the picture for a while can be a huge weight off the mind, and gives you the freedom to just get on with your tasks without that email tab lurking in the corner of your eye!

      With so much stress mugging up the modern workplace that not even the most inspirational looking office design can fix, employees need to take their hindrances and intimidations into their own hands. It’s all about organisation and forward planning, and I hope that after working these processes into your working day you’ll start to feel as streamlined and stress free as possible. I know I certainly have!

      Do you have any tips of your own to add to my list? Leave them below; I’d love to try them out!

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      Last Updated on August 7, 2018

      14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

      14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

      Being a leader of a company or organization is certainly a difficult and often frustrating position – but it can also be tremendously rewarding.

      Whether you’re just starting out as a leader, or have been leading for a while, you’ll be sure to benefit from knowing the essential traits that all great leaders possess.

      Effective and successful leaders transcend the title of ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. They’ve found a way to achieve the perfect combination of charisma, enthusiasm and self-assurance (with a healthy dose of luck and timing probably added to the mix).

      It may seem like some people are gifted with leadership skills, but the truth is most leadership traits can be learned, adopted, and strengthened with time and practice.

      As we delve into the list of effective leadership traits, you will learn the behaviors and attitudes of a good leader.

      The 14 most important leadership traits

      Please read through the list of leadership qualities carefully. Take note of which of the traits you excel at – and which ones you need to work at.

      Traits for better self-development

      1. Vision and mission

      Having a clear picture of what needs to be achieved is a crucial quality of good leadership.

      This vision is often communicated in a mission statement, such as this one from Starbucks:

        How to develop vision? Spend time pinpointing what you need to achieve, and then plan the steps to get there. Here’s a complete guide on creating your own vision.

        2. Self-motivated

        It’s no coincidence that successful leaders have an abundance of self-motivation.

        Without a decent level of self-motivation, you’ll struggle to become a strong and respected leader. However, if you don’t have a lot of self-motivation right now, don’t despair.

        One of the secrets is to have definite goals to keep you motivated at all times. Some people also choose to reward themselves every time they achieve a goal, and this is certainly a good way to keep yourself enthused and motivated. Learn how to set an ambitious yet achievable goal here.

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        3. Optimism and positivity

        Positive energy is contagious. Great leaders are overflowing with this type of energy.

        Not only does a positive mindset make leaders easy to work with, but it also gives them a constant source of inspiration and ideas.

        Tap into this energy by aligning yourself with positive people and positive goals. Find out more about the habits of positive people here.

        4. Emotional stability

        In leadership positions, frustration and stress are daily occurrences. This is why leaders need to have strong and stable emotions. They can’t allow themselves to be easily knocked off track.

        If you’re prone to losing your emotional stability when stressed or frustrated, try some of these techniques: breath deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, go for a walk, drink some water (instead of tea or coffee), turn your focus onto something you can resolve. Here’re some effective ways to control your emotions.

        5. Self-confidence

        Watch a presentation by any CEO and you’ll see that even if they’re not natural presenters – they make up for this by having powerful self-confidence.

        It’s not just CEOs who have self-confidence, any successful leader will have this trait in abundance. One reason for this, is that only a confident person can persuade others and gain their respect.

        Worried that you have low self-confidence? Try faking it. Psychologists often recommend that if you ‘act’ at being confident, you’ll start to look, sound and feel like you ARE confident. And in time… you will be.

        If you look for more ways to boost your self-confidence, this confidence coach has got you some nice advice:

        How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

        6. Decisiveness

        Leaders are frequently called upon to make decisions (some leaders may have to make dozens of decisions every day). In fact, you could say that making decisions is one of the key things a leader must do.

        Spend some time observing highly-successful leaders and you’ll see that they are quick to make decisions. They also enjoy making decisions, rather than stressing out like many non-leaders do when they’re asked to decide on something.

        Put yourself in the leadership bracket by developing your decision-making skills. Start with small decisions – and then work your way up to bigger and more difficult decisions. Once other people notice your decision-making prowess, they’ll automatically see you as leadership material.

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        I know it’s really quite difficult to make the right decisions sometimes, but don’t worry, here’s a guide for you:

        How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

        7. Passion and enthusiasm

        Expressive. Active. Energetic. These are words best describe a passionate leader.

        Great leaders are lively, driven and are possessed with zeal and purpose. It’s this passion that helps them achieve big results. If you want to emulate their success, then you need to develop passion and enthusiasm for the work at hand, and the end goals.

        Take a look at this Passion Pyramid to find out how importance a leader’s passion is to the team:

          One way to do this is to find what motivates you, and keep your focus firmly on that. For example, i f you’re motivated by helping others, then make sure your role and company are both suited to realizing this. If you’re motivated by money, then put your focus on achieving bonuses and pay rises.

          Take a look at Leo Babauta’s guide on how to find your passion.

          8. Accountability and responsibility

          Exceptional leaders know that at all times they’ll need to take responsibility for tasks and their results. This includes things likes individual and team performance, as well as being accountable for when things go wrong.

          When negative things occur (and you can guarantee they will from time-to-time), a great leader will immediately step in and take responsibility. Initially, they’ll try to resolve the problem in as quick and smooth a way as possible. But if this is not feasible, they’ll be sure to say that the buck stops with them – and they take full responsibility for what has happened.

          To develop your leadership skills, you must never shy away from responsibility or accountability. If you prefer to sweep mistakes under the carpet, then you’re demonstrating non-leadership traits. Try owning up to issues and finding solutions to them. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain people’s respect.

          Find out some tips on how to be a more responsible person here.

          9. Focus

          Distractions are everywhere. And it takes major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

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          One way leaders do this, is to keep their team intensely focused on the bigger picture. This might entail allocating specific time for tasks and eliminating any non-essential work.

          If you’re easily knocked off track, you’ll need to spend some time boosting your focus. Try planning your day, week, month and year to help ensure that you don’t fall behind with achieving your goals. Check out the 7 strategies of staying super focus recommended by a productivity coach.

          10. Ever-learning

          Leaders know that to be successful they need to continually update their skills and knowledge. They deliberately learn all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions.

          Why is ever learning so important? I’ll leave it to you to find out the reason here:

          If I Am Living a Good Life, Why Should I Bother Learning New Stuff?

          Imagine a CEO of a solar power company. His company may have amazing solar panels, but when it comes to discussing business with potential buyers, if the CEO or his sales team show a lack of understanding about the solar industry and future trends, etc., they’ll be unlikely to win any business.

          It’s exactly the same for you. If you’re a team leader at an electronics store, you should make sure you fully understand all the products that you offer. But go beyond just that, and read about upcoming products and trends that might change what customers are interesting in buying in the future.

          Traits for effective communication

          11. Empathy

          The best leaders understand the feeling of their team members, customers and associates. They know when to praise, and when to discuss problems (usually in private).

          Without empathy, leaders will be seen as cold, harsh and lacking understanding. They’re also likely to be regarded as untrustworthy.

          One way to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is to have regular informal discussions with your colleagues. When you do this, you’ll quickly learn their fears and desires. And when you understand why they have these – you’ll be in a position to express empathy. You can also learn to be more sensitive to others’ needs by taking up these communication skills.

          12. Persuasive and influential

          Communications are at the heart of all transactions. Whether it’s pitching for a sale or resolving a customer complaint, how you communicate will determine the outcome.

          Charismatic leaders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are confident and persuasive communicators. They know how to win over audiences and leave a lasting impressing in people’s minds.

          There’re some common barriers that you’ll have to overcome in order to communicate effectively:

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          How to learn effective communication? You could join the world-renowned U.S. nonprofit Toastmasters International. They’ve been training people in the art of public speaking since 1924, and members have included Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.

          If you don’t have time to join a club, then practice your communications skills at home. You can do this in front of a mirror, or even better, video yourself presenting, and then ask some friends and family members for feedback. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up on.

          Traits for ensuring an engaging team

          13. Team building

          If you put a bunch of random people together, you may have a loose definition of a team. In reality, a real team has purpose, drive – and a leader lighting the way.

          If you’ve worked in different teams and with different managers, you’ll no doubt have come to this conclusion:

          Managers who treat their team members like children are unpopular with the team. Conversely, managers who treat their team members like adults, are respected and well-liked by the team.

          The days of disciplinarian managers are passed. Nowadays, successful team leaders know how to inspire and motivate their team, while keeping a harmonious atmosphere between all team members.

          14. Fostering creativity

          Solutions to problems are rarely black and white. Often it takes a leader who can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with answers. In other words, a leader must be creative, and also help to foster creativity and innovation throughout their team.

          Creativity is not only associated with pursuits such as arts, literature and music, running a team can be just as creative. There will be times every day when you need to come up with ideas and give guidelines for your team to come up with theirs to solve problems.

          Leadership is a journey of continuous learning

          Leadership is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

          Begin now to build your skills and experience, pick out the traits that you currently lack – and then work on developing those.

          It will take tons of practice and time before becoming an effective leader but eventually you will join the ranks of great leaders.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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