Manage your time and reduce your stress

Between spending time with my children and grandchildren, helping out my elderly mother, doing workshops, speaking engagements and other job-related activities – not to mention trying to get in some “me time”  —  I lead a very busy life.

But being pulled in so many directions can come at a cost: It can be very stressful.

That’s why managing my time is so critical to my success at reducing my stress. Using my time as effectively as I can is the only way to really be productive, efficient and cut down on the stress that’s on the menu of a full plate.

There are many ways to be better at managing your time. Here are some of my favourites:

Set SMART goals

Rather than let everything on your mind turn into a jumble in your head, you have to figure out what you really want to accomplish, and how to get there.

Setting SMART goals  — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based — helps you to set priorities to make the best use of your time. Once you have a vision for what you want to achieve, carve up your time into a series of smaller SMART steps that will lead to you hitting your ultimate goal.

Make to-do lists

Writing down everything you have to do not only empties your mind of competing thoughts, it helps you to create a plan. And doing so reduces the feelings of being overwhelmed, eases your mind, increases your focus – all positive for reducing stress.

Some people do their lists the night before, but I do mine in the morning. I try to keep it to the top three priorities for the day.

Once you have your to-do list on paper or, like me, on your cell phone Notes app,  rank the tasks by priority, and complete them one by one in descending order. Or if you’re working on a few bigger projects, schedule blocks of time ( I use my cell phone timer).

There’s nothing more satisfying than putting a check mark beside each item as you complete it!

Declutter

Decluttering is one of my least favourite tasks because I find it so challenging. But if the piece of paper I need is buried in a pile of other unrecognizable papers,  or I forget where I put a bill because I never put bills in the same place (and that place can’t be seen anyways because I’ve already dumped other things on top of it), I feel ready to tear my hair out — and I get charged interest for being late on my bill-paying!

That feeling can be reduced simply by decluttering, which is really a way of being more organized – and wasting a lot less time looking for things.

Start getting organized by tackling those piles one at a time. Pick a spot for each item – and make sure you always put it there. As they say, a “place for everything, and everything in its place!”

Stop jumping from one fire to another

Are you forever just putting out fires, jumping from one unfinished task to tend to another that will also be left unfinished as your attention is diverted to a third one?

Being pulled in several directions at once can only increase your feelings of stress. You can’t focus on one thing when your mind is already on another.

This is another particular challenge for me. But when I have no choice except to jump from one thing to another, I try to stop, take a few deep breaths and approach the next task feeling calmer and with more focus.

Work  at your best hours

Some people are early-morning risers, others are night owls. Some people get their best work done when they first awaken, others just before they go to sleep and others in the middle of the day.

Whatever your body rhythms are, use them to your advantage.

 Take better charge of your e-mail

If you’re overwhelmed by your inbox, you have to become more disciplined in how you handle it.

I’m training myself to look at my in-box only at designated times, and place priorities on which e-mails I address.

First thing in the morning, I focus only on urgent ones, then, in the early afternoon, I deal with relevant ones relating to issues at hand and, at night, when I’m too tired to do other kinds of work, I go through and delete e-mails that I don’t want, file ones I may want to read later or respond to those I haven’t addressed earlier in the day.

Schedule time for self-care

You also have to take time out for yourself. When I do that, I’m more relaxed, energized and efficient when I get back to work, and less resentful of all of the tasks I’m still facing.

I’m a big fan of healer and energy medicine advocate Donna Eden’s daily five-minute energy routine. I practice it every morning, adding on a few other exercises for good measure.

Don’t  let the stressors get you down

It’s tough but it’s worthwhile to try to train yourself not to let things that upset or stress you get you down. Really, it’s a waste of time to worry about them.

When the stresses are getting to me, I turn to Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and tap away my worries so that I can think more logically and clearly on how I should proceed.

These are just some of the ways that you can manage your time more effectively. Put these and other strategies into play and feel your stress start to melt away!

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As I’ve mentioned before, April is Stress Awareness Month and, in keeping with the theme, I still have a couple of spots left for complimentary workshops that I am offering to  workplaces that want to help their employees learn how to better cope with stressors at work and in their wider lives.

If you feel your workplace could benefit from such a workshop, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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