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Time management for stress reduction

By Lila Havens

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Unfinished work. Messages piled up. Looming deadlines. Just thinking about it is enough to make you break a sweat.

Having a schedule that is out of control is a sure road to stress. It may be tempting to escape it all by surfing the Internet or even taking a sick day. But that’s just a short-term fix that will pile on more stress.

The key to getting stress under control is effective time management. With good time management, you’ll get more done, feel better about yourself and lower your stress level. These tips can help.

•Make a plan.
Using a to-do list is the most powerful way to get control of your time. Spend a little time at the start of each week making a list of what you need to accomplish. Some people use a day planner, electronic device or spreadsheet, but you can use a simple notebook.

•Prioritize.
Once you have made a to-do list, rank each item by importance. Some people use a system of high, medium and low. Concentrate on things of high importance or urgency. Move those that are medium or low to the bottom of the list.

•Be realistic.
Allow a reasonable amount of time for each task. Don’t schedule every moment. Leave some space in your day when you can take breaks or fit in the unexpected.

•Include time for yourself.
Your health and well-being are important, so make sure you allow time for good meals, exercise, relaxation and your family and friends.

•Review your to-do list every day.
Check off items as you finish them. This can give you a sense of accomplishment. What you don’t finish one day can be moved to the next day.

•Avoid procrastination.
Putting off things you need to do just creates more stress. If you feel overwhelmed by a task, break it down into smaller parts. Tackle one part at a time. Give yourself a little reward when you finish each part.

•Get help if you need it.
See if there are tasks you can delegate to someone else. It can pay to give up some control in exchange for a less hectic schedule.

•Learn to say “no.”
Accepting more and more responsibilities is guaranteed to increase your stress. If you already have a full plate, don’t take on more.

•Get organized.
Spend a little time setting up your workspace so you know where things are. Choose a spot where you put your keys, briefcase, purse or other items you use every day. Then use it every time. This can save a lot of frustration and hours of wasted time.

•Beware of time-wasters.
Phone calls and e-mail can interrupt concentration and eat up productive hours. Set up your phone to take messages, and schedule a time of day to return calls. Ditto with e-mail. Set aside a time for it (maybe 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes after lunch). Identify other time-wasters and how you could deal with them.

SOURCES:

  • Family Care Research Program, Michigan State University. Time management for the busy caregiver. Accessed: 10/13/2009
  • HelpGuide.org. Understanding stress: signs, symptoms, causes and effects. Accessed: 08/07/2008
  • National Resource Center on AD/HD. Time management: learning to use a day planner. Accessed: 11/08/2007
  • Mental Health America. Finding your balance: at work and home. Accessed: 10/13/2009

 View the original Time management for stress reduction article on myOptumHealth.com

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