How to stop yourself drowning in work

busy woman at photocopier

Do you find your work piling up around you, despite your best efforts to stay on schedule?

A large part of being successful at any job is keeping on top of your work, and when you’re running your own business, you might feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day. It’s a common problem and since reducing your workload is not likely to be an option, it’s time to take a look at your working pattern and see what changes you can make so that you can start powering through your to-do list, every day. Maggie Old is Head of HR at staffing firm Kelly and here she shares some advice on managing your time and taking control of your working day.

Set deadlines for yourself. 

When you’re working on an important project that’s going to take significant effort to complete, set a deadline for yourself—one that’s earlier than the actual date by which you need to complete it. This will help you focus on completing the task on time, allow you to better plan for what you need to do; the extra time will also act as a buffer if anything pops up unexpectedly.

Map out a schedule at the beginning of each day.

No matter how tempting it is to dive into your favourite project as soon as you get to work, it’s smarter to review what you need to accomplish during the day and then allocate your time accordingly. Set aside half an hour or so at the start of the day, and after lunch, for the smaller things that need to be done – for example, answering emails and arranging calls – before you get stuck into the larger projects that will likely take a few hours. By planning your time out in this way, you’ll be much more organised, and better able to avoid a last-minute panic when it comes to getting tasks finished.

Include short breaks.

We have a limited capacity for being able to concentrate for extended periods of time.  Research shows that taking breaks over the course of the day serve to reenergize us, resulting in better decision making and heightened productivity once we return to our desks afterwards. Merely switching activities at the computer doesn’t count as a break: to get the best results, you need to get up and move around, giving your mind a respite from the screen. Whether it’s a lunchtime workout or a trip to the kitchen for a coffee, anything that gets you up and moving will help. Scheduling in breaks will also help you stick to a set schedule.

Avoid too much caffeine. 

One or two cups of coffee or tea can give you a burst of energy when you need it most: at the start or end of the day. There’s a fine line to tread, however: drinking too much caffeine might even make you more tired than you were beforehand, as it has the potential to deplete your adrenal glands. Rather than returning to the kettle for a pick-me-up, try decaffeinated coffee or tea, bottled water, or green tea.

Manage your communications.

Emails, messages, text messages, voice mail: the number of communications you receive as part of your work can be overwhelming, stressful, and can add up to two and half hours a day. Instead of allowing yourself to be distracted by an alert every few minutes, turn off all notifications. Use your pre-scheduled segments at the start of the day, and after lunch, to check your messages instead. That in turn allows you to prioritize the ones you need to respond to: leave the rest until you’re finished with the most important tasks of the day and put aside twenty minutes before you leave to answer them.

Be productive.

It’s worryingly easy to do a day’s work without actually managing anything productive. To avoid this, you need to take a proactive approach to your work, regularly checking whether what you’re doing and how you’re doing it will get you closer to your goal. Everyone can improve their productivity levels at work; you just need to have a good grasp of your working patterns. Determine whether you’re a multi-tasker or someone who needs to focus on one thing at a time instead. Once you’ve found the style of working that suits you best, stick with it and you’ll likely become more productive.

Improving your efficiency at work a case of developing more effective strategies, that suit your working style, to better complete the tasks that you have to do during the day. By managing your notifications, taking regular breaks, and planning your work schedule, you can change any bad habits and enjoy a heightened level of productivity. That way, you never have to feel as if you’re drowning in work again.

About the author

Maggie Old is Head of HR at Kelly, which offers specialist outsourcing, consulting and staffing services, connecting professional and technical talent in the fields of Accounting, Industrial, Commercial, Engineering and Science.

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