I love my job–I really do–but it can be very stressful. There are court deadlines that can’t be missed, unexpected client “emergencies” that can hijack an entire day, and meetings that prevent me from actually getting any work done.
My desk may never look like this:
But my in-box often looks like this:
One of the things that weighed heavily on my thoughts over the holidays was my stress level at work, and what I might be able to do about it. I decided that I need to make some resolutions for reducing stress at work–and then work really hard to keep them.
- Stop multitasking. I know that multitasking is sapping my energy more than it is increasing my productivity, but it is a hard habit to break. With dual monitors and pop-up notifications, it is difficult to ignore new emails that come in while I am working on something else. I knows those “three second” distractions add up, break my concentration, and make me feel fragmented. If I have both monitors showing screens relevant to what I am working on, I will finish my project more quickly and then can give my email my full attention. If my project will take more than a few hours, I can take designated email breaks.
- Complete one project before starting the next one. My days can be full of interruptions, and I am tempted to handle new requests right away if I think I can complete them quickly (reviewing a draft, signing a letter, etc.). This often means that I will have several files open and in-progress at once, and several interrupted projects that I will have to re-orient myself to when I return to them later. Unless a courier is waiting for me to sign something that has to go out immediately, new items can wait until I finish what I’m working on, or at least get to a good stopping point. But, I still will answer the phone if it’s a client calling ….
- Deal with emails right away. I try to deal with emails right away, so I don’t waste time scrolling through my in-box to find the one(s) that I need to read again or respond to. If I don’t need to respond, I read and delete. If I need to respond later, I set a reminder/flag which moves the email out of my regular in-box stream. If I will need to refer to the email later, I will move it to a folder. At the end of the day/week/month, I review the emails that remain in my in-box, and see if they can be deleted, flagged, moved, etc. But, this process doesn’t work as well as it could if I am “glancing” at my emails as they come in. (See resolution #1.)
- Take notes. I need to get better at taking notes during all telephone calls. When I am on a conference call, I process the information and understand the next steps, but if the matter isn’t urgent or if I get interrupted before I take care of it, I can lose track of details. If I take notes–even if I don’t think I need to (and this is key)–then I won’t have to spend time wracking my brain to remember those details.
- Take breaks. When my in-box is stacked a mile high, it is tempting to put my nose to the grindstone and work straight through, but I know that’s not healthy. Now I have my UP band to remind me to move at least once an hour, and I am still trying to “beat the buzzer” by getting up before the idle alarm goes off. Plus, taking a few minutes once or twice a day to step out to Starbucks gives my eyes a break from my computer, lets me get a few breaths of fresh air, and stretches my leg a bit more than a walk down the hall to speak with my assistant or refill my water bottle. 😉
Is your job stressful?
Do you have any tips for reducing stress at work?