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7 Ways to Simplify Your Work Life

Career Advice |

Do you ever feel like you’re floundering or unfocused in your day-to-day work life? Have stress, fatigue, and mental chaos become your new normal? All too often it can feel like there’s too much work and not enough you to get it all done. The result? Disorganization, mistakes, and burnout. But if you’re ready to make positive changes, then it’s time to try out these seven suggestions to simplify your work life:

1. Get Clear on Your Priorities

First thing each week – or even every morning, if you’re an organizational all-star – make a list of all of your work-related tasks. Try to make the list as detailed as possible, including little things like following up on emails, mailing packages, etc. Then rank each task in priority order. What tasks are most critical to your company’s success? What are your drop-dead deadlines? Those things should top the list, and everything else can fall to the bottom. Then…

2. Delegate

Review your list of priorities to determine which tasks can only be completed by you. Then, if at all possible, delegate the rest of the work. Your time and expertise is valuable, and you should be spending the majority of your time on critical tasks that require your unique skillset. If there’s no one in your company who you can delegate to, talk to your boss about the possibility of hiring a freelancer or virtual assistant. The more time you spend on specialized, critical tasks, the more value you bring to your company.

3. Close Your Email Window

In our constant-communication culture, many of us feel that we need to respond to emails instantly. But consider this: A study called “The Impact of E-mail Communication on Organizational Life” explains that “switching between tasks result[s] in a delay before engaging effectively in a new task, even if the worker had been previously engaged in the task. Each fragmentation to a task adds to the total time required to complete it.” So every time you pause what you’re doing to check a new email, your brain needs extra time to refocus back on the original task. Instead, close your email window when you’re focused on an assignment, and dedicate 10-15 minutes every couple of hours solely to reading and responding to emails.

4. Clear the  Clutter

Your mental disorganization could be a result of your physical surroundings. When your desk or office is cluttered, your mind can feel similarly chaotic. You may not think you have time to devote to cleaning your office, but clearing your workspace – including files and programs on your computer – will likely save you time in the long run.

5. Drink More Water

Suffering from the dreaded afternoon slump? Instead of crawling under the desk and hoping no one hears you snoring, try drinking a glass of water instead. Several scientific studies blame dehydration as one of the leading causes of afternoon fatigue, and a recent Time magazine article explains that even slight dehydration can “cause headache symptoms, loss of focus, a sense of fatigue and low mood.” So drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid yawning all afternoon.

6. Take Frequent Breaks

And no, breaks to play Words with Friends on your phone don’t count. Make a point to physically get up from your seat once an hour, even if it’s just to walk down the hall for a glass of water. Better yet, take a walk around the block or around the parking lot outside your building. Even minor physical activity will get your blood circulating, which means your mind will stay clear all day.

7. Work with a Coach

If you’re having trouble prioritizing tasks, managing time, or decreasing stress, you may want to consider working with a personal coach. A coach will help you clarify your overarching goals so you make more conscious decisions and create a realistic plan for success. Plus, your coach will provide support and accountability as you take steps to simplify your workday and balance your life overall.

And above all, remember that the best stress relief comes from stepping back from your endless to-do list from time to time to just have fun – because those are the memories that will stick with you even after 2013 has come and gone.

How have you simplified your work life? Tell us in the comments.

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Topics

worklife balance lifestyle 2

21 Comments

Great Advice. I always make a to do list the night before. It helps me keep motivated and organize my day.

2y

I wish I would have read this months ago! Still glad I have come across it today. I've noticed that so much of the clutter in my mind is due to the physical clutter on my desk. It's okay to pause, which is seldom in my line of work, but I am just now forcing myself to take time for myself. You won't profit from your work if you are trying to rush through it all. This is a great topic! Definitely will be sharing this one around the office today.

3y

I'm so guilty of not drinking enough water. Great tips, Kristen!

3y

Just saw that Amanda uses TeuxDeux.com. ME TOO! It's a lifesaver and I've been using it for over 2 years now. Great stuff.

3y

I agree with clearing clutter. I put all of my stuff to its proper place before I leave. There's just something great about coming into work and actually seeing your desk (in contrast to piles of paper and maybe even trash). With no clutter too I feel like I can truly focus on my work instead of trying to resist the urge to put back the pen in its holder.

3y

I'm so glad that these tips are helpful to everyone! And I love the ones you've all added in the comments - especially the one about listening to music. Some days, I swear I don't know how I'd get through the work day without Spotify!

3y

The email suggestion is so important - and so hard! I find that even when my email is closed on my computer, I get the buzz on my phone. This is re-motivating me to get better about email and not let it take up too much time!

3y

So true about the afternoon fatigue <=> dehydration correlation! I always hydrate in the morning, but then forget to drink water for the rest of the day. Turning over a new leaf.

3y

Today technology is taking over our everything. However, paper planner is still the best way for me to organize and reflect on my actions. We shouldn't underestimate the act of actually writing that big V vs clicking [done] button.

Water, natural light, fresh air and greens keep me going all day.

Though, we think that we can do it all, coaches and mentors play bigger role than just "advice and feedback". They are our "support", our "friends", our "fallback".

Great article.

I could use a link to few work-prompting playlists though :D

3y

Clearing the clutter is something I'm trying to do throughout my life! Starting by keeping my new apartment clean. My dad always said that when you walk into his office, you should never see extra paper lying around. As soon as he gets an assignment he deals with it and files it away before moving on to the next. He told me the best thing for me to focus on as I transition into a working woman is to finish each task at hand before going onto the next! I love his advice and this article. Thank you for the tips!

3y

These tips are even helpful for a college student. I always find myself being distracted by emails while I'm doing work. Definitely bookmarking this article for future use!

3y

These are great tips. One thing I found very helpful is to do weekly reviews... each Saturday morning I sit down and look at my calendar... What happend last week? What was good? What was bad? What, and how can I do better? Then I make a list for the upcoming week... which becomes essentially the list I am doing a review against the following Saturday. This way I can keep track of how much I get done during a week and don't miss even small improvements. It takes some time but it's a nice thing to do while having a coffee. It also makes me feel confident that I am in the drivers seat which really helps during weeks with way too much work for 7 days.

3y

I use teuxdeux.com and always write down the four things that I must get done that day. I've found that setting reasonable to accomplish lists each day helps me feel like I am making progress. I've also found that taking a half hour on Friday to look at all I've accomplished that week calms me down!

3y
Brenda Storer

Elana, I totally agree about music! A good playlist helps me energize and tune out distractions while working.

3y
Elana Gross

I am trying to be better about checking my emails less frequently when I am working on a project. It is important to learn to prioritize and discern whether or not the email needs to get answered right away. Music also helps me focus. I listen to Pandora or Spotify so I don't have to choose songs.

3y

Closing my email window is always a challenge- but it definitely helps me focus on the task at hand.

3y
Carly Heitlinger

I cannot work with clutter!!!! Simply cleaning off my space and having everything in order makes me feel like I can conquer anything! Great tips Kristen!

3y

Often I feel like work-life balance is a misnomer. I think no matter what work IS life and vice-versa. Delegating and having a life coach have definitely helped me to manage the load of both work AND life recently.

3y

Clear the clutter is so important ! This is something, whether physical or mental, that really messes with my clarity of thought and effectiveness, but I feel that people underestimate its importance because it may feel like a trivial detail.

3y

I just told someone today that I feel like some of my spinning plates are starting to wobble. This is great advice and couldn't have come at a more perfect moment. Thank you!

3y

I LOVE this advice, because I've definitely been feeling the craze of trying to fit 30 hours into a 24 hour day...I think I shall start with #5 :) H2O

3y
Kristen Walker

Kristen Walker is a professionally trained life coach for people in their 20s and 30s and the co-founder of Clarity on Fire Coaching, a life coaching company specifically for Millennials who want to figure out their passion, turn it into a viable career, and create a solid plan to find freedom. Ready to take the first step toward figuring out your passion? Take her short, free quiz -- The Passion Profile Quiz -- to determine your ideal relationship between your passion and your career.