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Get your time management in order for the year ahead

Posted on from AXA ICAS

Arriving back at the office after enjoying the festive season can be a shock to the system. With workforces under increasing pressure due to budget cuts meaning smaller teams and greater time pressures, the ability to manage your time effectively is crucial to managing stress in the workplace.

Stress triggers

There have been reports recently focusing on the stress that comes with having time off work particularly for managers who find it hard to delegate or put their work to one side.

More than a third of small-business owners are planning to work on Christmas Day or Boxing Day this year (FreeIndex) and, with the rise of mobile communications, shutting off the world of work is becoming ever more difficult. On the other hand, returning to work after a long break away from emails and reports can equally be a trigger for stress, especially if you’re greeted with a full inbox and start to feel your to-do list is running away with you before you’ve even had a cup of coffee.

Underlying stress

Due to the current economic circumstances, it's likely that an increasing number of organisations will make redundancies over the festive break and again, a further trigger for stress can be the realisation that your workload has increased in your absence.

While this situation may be temporary for some, a heavy workload can be an ongoing and deeply ingrained problem. It would seem self-evident that a heavy workload is easy to spot; however, this is not always the case.

Many working cultures seem to thrive on a deadline-driven, pressured environment. You may assume that the stress you’re feeling is normal and, if it builds gradually, you may be able to accommodate the increased pressure for a time.

Sometimes the feeling of being overloaded is internalised – i.e. you may blame yourself for not being able to ‘cope’ and the company culture can reinforce this.

Steps to take control of workload

The feeling of being overloaded can happen at any level within an organisation.

There are steps that you can take to help manage your workload more easily and get your time management in order for the year ahead but firstly, if you are feeling overwhelmed by your workload, try to speak to your manager about the pressure you feel you’re under.

Reducing workload or changing working practices is easier said than done but your manager does have a responsibility to identify when a workload is the primary issue involved in causing stress and to deal with the underlying causes. To help to manage work-related stress, try to focus on the following aspects:

  • Prioritise and set goals. Set a deadline for each goal so that you have a clear idea of when you need to do things by.
  • Make a list, and order by importance. Have a daily to do list as well as a more long term list, perhaps weekly or monthly.
  • Put aside time each day for specific tasks. Block out this time in your calendar or diary, especially if this diary is shared with colleagues so they know you are busy during this time. Also, remember to take regular breaks as making a cup of tea or getting some fresh air will revitalise you for the remainder of the task.
  • Delegate, delegate delegate! Don’t feel that you have to tackle everything alone. Delegate tasks to someone else who has the time and necessary competence.
  • Be organised. Wasting time trying to find documents because you are disorganised is not productive and will only increase stress. 
  • Break down big tasks. Big projects are daunting so break them up into more manageable chunks of work so you are not overwhelmed
  • You can say “no”
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Don’t forget to reward yourself. When you accomplish a task make sure you give yourself a reward, (for example, a coffee break) before starting your next project. 

Act calmly

Ultimately, it’s fundamental that you manage your own workload so you’re able to act calmly in pressured situations.

This isn’t easy to do but begin doing it for yourself and it will be easier for your manager to assist you. If you fail to take action, you could pay a heavy price in your physical and mental health.

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