How to Stress Less and Leave Work on Time
The 2008 Work Life Index by the University of South Australia found over half of our workers put in at least four hours more than they’d like.
As Griffith University Associate Professor, Paula Brough, puts it, “There are no boundaries for many people. Working long hours impacts upon your physical health, psychological health and relationships. Australia is in the top five when it comes to cultures with long working-hours.”
“We’ve hit a fork in the road,” says author and performance consultant Andrew May. “You can either carry on trying to keep up with life, work and the world, getting gradually more stressed, and perhaps end up joining the ever-expanding list of people who are broken, burnt out and battered. Or you can learn to not only survive, but thrive.”
1. Stay on top of paper
Paper breeds, so stay on top of it with regular flicking and filing. “When it comes down to it, organising is about making decisions with your time and the stuff you’ve got. With paper, the problem is sheer volume,” says Lissanne Oliver, author of Sorted! The Ultimate Guide to Organising Your Life – Once and For All.
Oliver recommends a simple ‘sorting recipe’. Rather than sitting down and creating 30 different piles of seemingly unrelated papers, go for just four: finish, forward, file or flick.
With flick, chuck it! Forward is usually tiny bundle of papers to pass on. For finish, make a small bundle for projects you want to wrap up now. “The files can either go on top of your filing cabinet until you can put it away, or be dealt with right away,” Oliver says.
2. Organise your email
May reports that some workers now receive 200-300 emails a day, but the average number is between 50 and 100: “80 per cent of email is rubbish. People suffer inboxification,” says May.
Make friends with your delete key, and if you can reply straight away, do so, otherwise you’re double-handling, says Oliver. Also set aside time at the end of the day to clear out emails you won’t need to revisit.
One method which works for busy Business Development Manager for Ronin Films, Harriet Pike, is to create ‘days of the week’ folders and keep your inbox empty. If a task isn’t attended to on ‘Monday’, move it to ‘Tuesday’, and if something needs to be done on a Friday, assign it to that day’s folder, etc.
To put a cap on emailing time, be disciplined and only check emails three to four times a day – say at 9:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm and 5:00pm. If this sounds way too hard, start at six times a day and cut back from there.
3. Stay energised
Shake the cycle and take a break. It could be a three-day weekend; or for the mega time-pressed, simply step away from your desk and find a non computer-based task to get onto (such as 30-minutes of filing or a 20-minute chucking things out session). Either way, you’ll come back feeling far clearer.
“Look at where you spend your time, and where you’re wasting it. Once you’re on top of your workload, you’ll feel more productive and the energy shift takes places. Get better quality sleep, eat good quality food and get some exercise,” says May.
Also make sure you’re feeding your body with B vitamins. If you’re lacking energy, you may be deficient in the B-group, which helps with the processing of carbs, proteins and fats to produce energy. Consider getting your levels checked by a doctor if you’re feeling flat over an extended period of time.