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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 March 23, 2021

      Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

      Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

      One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

      The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

      You need more than time management. You need energy management

      1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

      How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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      I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

      I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

      2. Determine your “peak hours”

      Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

      Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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      My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

      In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

      Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

      3. Block those high-energy hours

      Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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      Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

      If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

      That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

      There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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      Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

      Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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