Pallavi Pinakin provides nine tips on how to reduce work related stress

A typical workday in 2021 consists of an incredible variety of tasks. Along with your primary job function, you probably handle several other responsibilities such as answering the phone, checking emails, attending meetings and sending updates along the corporate ladder.

This perpetual stream of scattered activity can leave you feeling inundated, and wreak havoc on your ability to prioritise and concentrate.

When most of your energy goes into an endless list of tasks, how can you be expected to make time for deep work and focussed thinking, which are essential to progressing in your career?

Here are a few ways to eliminate the nonessential activities that bog you down and regain some control over your workday. To simplify effectively for success, remember to start small and go step-by-step in your quest for efficiency. Trying to implement all the changes simultaneously can leave you feeling even more overwhelmed!

Map out your day with checklists, priorities and time allocations.

CHECKLISTS Make a list of all the tasks you need to get through in a day. If doing this daily is too daunting, start by doing so weekly.

We often overwhelm ourselves by mentally running over pending tasks again and again, and making them seem more numerous than they are. Listing them and crossing them out as you go along helps keep a visual track of your progress, and minimises the mind space allocated to them.

THE BIG STUFF Rather than starting with the easiest tasks and saving the difficult ones for later, begin by focussing on the major activities for the day and then proceed in order of decreasing importance. This has the benefit of not being weighed down at the end of your day with the heaviest responsibilities.

POWER THROUGH Try and overcome your instinct to constantly multitask. Instead, allocate a block of time for each activity – and don’t schedule any calls or meetings during this period. Get your materials ready, set an alarm for the time you’ve set aside for your work and short breaks, and power through until the job is done.

And optimise, optimise, optimise…

DON’T OVERTHINK Overanalysis spells the death of efficiency. When in doubt about a confusing email or feedback, don’t get tangled up in feelings of negativity or start overthinking the matter. Instead, simply ask for clarification from the sender.

If your doubts can’t be resolved immediately, don’t let it stop you in your tracks – simply move on to another task for the time being. Ruminating over it will only waste precious time and add unnecessary complexity to your day.

GO LOW TECH Technology that’s designed to improve our efficiency and productivity often has the opposite effect. The very act of picking up the phone to use a calculator can act as a gateway to distraction, tempting us to play a game, check social media or browse the newsfeed.

If this rings a bell, you could simplify your workday by going low tech. Do you really need a note keeping app on your desktop or phone when a small paper diary will serve as a distraction-free alternative?

LESS CHATTER You needn’t be eloquent in each email response when a sentence or two will suffice. Shorter emails also tend to elicit more concise replies and thereby give you more time to read them.

Meetings too can be shortened. If you’re in charge of a meeting, request participants to read the documents and prepare notes in advance, and be as succinct as possible in their presentations.

Many meetings can in fact be conducted via email. So ask yourself whether all of you really need to sit together for 30 minutes on a particular task?

AUTOMATE TASKS Automation can free up valuable head space and time. So go ahead and automate a few tasks in your workday. Basic inquiries can usually be answered with a standard template email or by directing people to an informative website.

Many manual tasks related to accounting, shipping and so on can also be automated, saving you hours every week after the initial setup.

Make the time to rejuvenate…

TAKE A BREATHER Breaks are imperative to avoid burnout and refocus. Many popular tools such the Pomodoro Technique (using a timer to work in 25 minute intensive sessions with short intervals in-between) emphasise the importance of taking time out.

Use break time to stretch your limbs, reset with a breathing exercise, and attend to distractions such as checking personal messages and social media. This way, you’ll be less tempted to do so during work time.

CHANGE OF SCENE For tasks that don’t need you to be with your team or bound to a high-speed internet, step out of your office or usual work space and head to a cafe or park. A change of scenery is an instant energy booster and provides much needed relief from the daily routine.