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…
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.