Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
April 26 2021Read more
We recently explored why understanding the importance of work-life balance is essential. Work-life balance can radically improve both mental and physical health. So in honour of National Work-Life Week, we’re looking at how to organise your workload for less stress and more success.
Extended periods of stress can cause concentration issues, stomach problems and irritability¹. These symptoms can quickly seep into other areas of life. Personal problems can then often make the stress feel even more overwhelming. Prevention is the best way to avoid this kind of burnout. And the best way to prevent it? Plan your priorities and organise your workload. This isn’t to say that workplace stress won’t still come your way. Tight deadlines, faced-paced environments and demanding workloads are likely to persist. But if you’re prepared and well organised with your workload, you’re better equipped to take it in your stride and exceed expectations.
1. Number your to-do lists
To-do lists. They take seconds. But they add structure to your entire day. Even the act of stopping to pause and consider tasks can be effective to combat stress. Studies show that making a plan can free the mind from worrying thoughts and anxieties about uncompleted tasks². This freed up brainpower will allow you to focus on completing them instead.
The best way to take your to-do list to the next level? Number it. Long to-do lists can trigger overwhelming feelings. If you can fine-tune your list in order of priority, you have yourself a plan of action. There are only so many hours in the day. Prioritisation is key to completing the most important task with the time you have. The numbering process will help you to do this.
2. Review your workload
It can be easy to go through your working day without stopping to consider the demands of your role. But it could be worth raising this issue with your line manager if you’ve been feeling the effects of a pressing workload. Resolutions can’t occur without first acknowledging and expressing any issues. You may feel apprehensive or nervous about approaching the subject, but your manager is the one who can help. There's a range of potential adjustments your manager can consider. Whether it’s setting up a new process, splitting tasks between the team or attending training in difficult areas.
3. Set distraction-free time
Real work takes place when you zone into the flow. Distractions can sometimes make this zone feel completely out of reach. Back-to-back meetings, non-stop calls and email notifications are fighting for your attention at all hours of the day. Switching off from this endless cycle takes conscious effort. But it’s through this conscious effort, that the real work gets done. Blocking out distraction-free time in your day gives you a chance to knuckle down and get things done. Make sure you schedule at least an hour of this time each day. Pause notifications, put away your phone and find a quiet place if possible. This time is your own and it will help you on the road to keep on top of your workload.
4. Take regular breaks
Just like petrol tanks, we all have energy limits. We can only give so much before we need to stop and top up. Our energy limits can vary depending on other areas of life like diet, sleep and mental health. So it’s important to consider that. Allow yourself regular breaks to stretch your legs, get fresh air and make a hot drink. It will improve the quality of the time you do spend working. It can be tempting to try and work through lunch to catch up on pressing tasks. But studies show that taking a lunch break and switching off from work will increase energy levels and decrease exhaustion in the long run³.
¹ nhs.uk. 2019. Get help with stress. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/> [Accessed 11 October 2021].
² Masicampo, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2011, June 20). Consider It Done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024192
³ Sianoja, M., Kinnunen, U., de Bloom, J., Korpela, K. and Geurts, S., 2016. Recovery during Lunch Breaks: Testing Long-Term Relations with Energy Levels at Work. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 1(1), p.7. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16993/sjwop.13
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