Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

      Advertising

      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!

      More by this author

      Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress 4 Reasons Why your Home Office Furniture Should be Tailored to your Space single purpose home office 10 Quick Fixes for Creating Space in a Cluttered Home Office

      Trending in Productivity

      1 10 Huge Differences Between a Boss And a Leader 2 Why Perspective Taking Is an Essential Skill for Success 3 How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve Success 4 How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates) 5 How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on June 3, 2020

      How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)

      How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)

      Everyone needs a goal. Whether it’s in a business context or for personal development, having goals help you strive towards something you want to accomplish. It prevents you from wandering around aimlessly without a purpose.

      But there are good ways to write goals and there are bad ways. If you want to ensure you’re doing the former, keep reading to find out how a SMART goals template can help you with it.

      The following video is a summary of how you can write SMART goals effectively:

      What Are SMART Goals?

      SMART Goals

      refer to a way of writing down goals that follow a specific criteria. The earliest known use of the term was by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, however, it is often associated with Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept.[1]

      SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There are other variations where certain letters stand for other things such as “achievable” instead of attainable, and “realistic” instead of relevant.

      Advertising

      What separates a SMART goal from a non-SMART goal is that, while a non-SMART goal can be vague and ill-defined, a SMART goal is actionable and can get you results. It sets you up for success and gives you a clear focus to work towards.

      And with SMART goals comes a SMART goals template. So, how do you write according to this template?

      How to Write Smart Goals Using a SMART Goals Template

      For every idea or desire to come to fruition, it needs a plan in place to make it happen. And to get started on a plan, you need to set a goal for it.

      The beauty of writing goals according to a SMART goals template is that it can be applied to your personal or professional life.

      If it’s your job to establish goals for your team, then you know you have a lot of responsibility weighing on your shoulders. The outcome of whether or not your team accomplishes what’s expected of them can be hugely dependant on the goals you set for them. So, naturally, you want to get it right.

      On a personal level, setting goals for yourself is easy, but actually following through with them is the tricky part. According to a study by Mark Murphy about goal setting, participants who vividly described their goals were 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully achieve their goals.[2] Which goes to show that if you’re clear about your goals, you can have a higher chance of actually accomplishing them.

      Advertising

      Adhering to a SMART goals template can help you with writing clear goals. So, without further ado, here’s how to write SMART goals with a SMART goals template:

      Specific

      First and foremost, your goal has to be specific. Be as clear and concise as possible because whether it’s your team or yourself, whoever has to carry out the objective needs to be able to determine exactly what it is they are required to do.

      To ensure your goal is as specific as it can be, consider the Ws:

      • Who = who is involved in executing this goal?
      • What = what exactly do I want to accomplish?
      • Where = if there’s a fixed location, where will it happen?
      • When = when should it be done by? (more on deadline under “time-bound”)
      • Why = why do I want to achieve this?

      Measurable

      The only way to know whether or not your goal was successful is to ensure it is measurable. Adding numbers to a goal can help you or your team weigh up whether or not expectations were met and the outcome was triumphant.

      For example, “Go to the gym twice a week for the next six months” is a stronger goal to strive for than simply, “Go to the gym more often”.

      Setting milestone throughout your process can also help you to reassess progress as you go along.

      Advertising

      Attainable

      The next important thing to keep in mind when using a SMART goals template is to ensure your goal is attainable. It’s great to have big dreams but you want your goals to be within the realms of possibility, so that you have a higher chance of actually accomplishing them.

      But that doesn’t mean your goal shouldn’t be challenging. You want your goal to be achievable while at the same time test your skills.

      Relevant

      For obvious reasons, your goal has to be relevant. It has to align with business objectives or with your personal aspirations or else, what’s the point of doing it?

      A SMART goal needs to be applicable and important to you, your team, or your overall business agenda. It needs to be able to steer you forward and motivate you to achieve it, which it can if it holds purpose to something you believe in.

      Time-Bound

      The last factor of the SMART goals template is time-bound (also known as “timely”). Your goal needs a deadline, because without one, it’s less likely to be accomplished.

      A deadline provides a sense of urgency that can motivate you or your team to strive towards the end. The amount of time you allocate should be realistic. Don’t give yourself—or your team—only one week if it takes three weeks to actually complete it. You want to set a challenge but you don’t want to risk over stress or burn out.

      Advertising

      Benefits of Using a SMART Goals Template

      Writing your goals following a SMART goals template provides you with a clearer focus. It communicates what the goal needs to achieve without any fuss.

      With a clear aim, it can give you a better idea of what success is supposed to look like. It also makes it easier to monitor progress, so you’re aware whether or not you’re on the right path.

      It can also make it easier to identify bottlenecks or missed targets while you’re delivering the goal. This gives you enough time to rectify any problems so you can get back on track.

      The Bottom Line

      Writing goals is seemingly not a difficult thing to do. However, if you want it to be as effective as it can be, then there’s more to it than meets the eye.

      By following a SMART goals template, you can establish a more concrete foundation of goal setting. It will ensure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—attributes that cover the necessities of an effectively written goal.

      More Tips About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next