Imagine it’s Friday night, and everyone except you has gone home. Despite being exhausted, you keep telling yourself, “30 more minutes.” Suddenly, two more hours have passed, and you’ve put in a 10-hour day. What a way to kick off the weekend, right?
There is a good chance that you have experienced work overload if this sounds remotely familiar to you. And, since the American Institute of Stress estimates that 80% of workers struggle with work-related stress, you’re not alone. In addition, nearly half of them say they need support to cope with that stress. So, if you’re among that almost 50% that need a little help — here are some productivity hacks you can try.
So, let’s learn how to prevent overworking and stress from killing your productivity.
1. It’s OK to admit you can’t do everything.
Some of us tend to overestimate our abilities. The more responsibility we take on, the more stress we create at work, negatively impacting our performance.
As such, you must admit that you can’t do everything alone. Even Superman relies on the Justice League to help him deal with threats too significant for humanity to handle alone. Taking this as a starting point, you should search for better solutions if you’re serious about making progress.
Life is full of times when things don’t go as planned. In both your professional and personal life, you need to be honest with yourself about what isn’t working.
Your progress will accelerate as you practice telling the truth about what works and what doesn’t.
2. Write six to-do lists (but not all at once).
Make a weekly to-do list on Sunday night — or the day before your week begins. Make sure you have a weekly calendar set up so that you can see not only today’s to-dos but your entire week’s as well. Doing this will allow you to move things around as necessary. It will also be easier to see where you can steal time if necessary.
The next step is to create a to-do list for the next day. Assuming you work Monday through Friday, you will do this every day from Sunday to Thursday.
In short, organize your daily and weekly to-do lists every night. When you do, you can answer the following questions:
- Are you on track to complete your tasks?
- Is there anything that needs to be changed?
Moreover, if it is a light day, you can pull something off tomorrow’s list and work on it tomorrow.
3. Set up alarms and calendar alerts.
In addition to using this hack to create to-do lists, you can also use it to keep track of upcoming meetings and events.
Let’s say you receive an invitation to a Google calendar event and have an Android phone synchronized with your Gmail ID. You will receive an alert since the event is automatically integrated into your calendar.
However, some phones don’t perform this function, and not all events require a Google calendar invitation. Instead, you can simply set the alarm or mark the date yourself in your phone calendar. Then, whenever you think you might have forgotten something, your phone will remind you.
4. Define your boundaries clearly.
Working from home during the pandemic allowed some employees more personal time. As a result, there was also a blurring of the lines between work and home. There was a sudden realization of the importance of maintaining a balance between work and personal life.
Workplace integration can make it more difficult to switch off and detach. For example, there is no commute so workdays can be extended, and meetings and work requests can occur outside regular working hours. As a result, we may easily fall back into old habits such as long workdays, hectic commutes, and overcommitting when returning to the office.
If you can set work boundaries, make sure you do so and follow them. Some suggestions include the following:
- Share your calendar with others so they can see your work hours.
- As much as possible, avoid taking on work or attending meetings outside of your defined working hours.
- Make your teammates aware of the importance of respecting your work hours as well.
- Put a time in your calendar for lunch every day.
- Establish a time for colleagues to reach you every day and try to stick to it.
Breaks are also crucial throughout the day. Create mid-morning and afternoon downtime routines so you’re checking in with yourself, moving your body, and switching off briefly.
5. Add “no” to your vocabulary.
There is a natural tendency for most of us to say yes to more work. But, by saying no, you place yourself in an awkward position. Besides not wanting to be a disappointment, by helping others, you can build trust and accountability. But it’s also good to get your own stuff done first.
You will maintain your mental health and productivity if you know when your bandwidth is maxed out, and you should say no to more work.
Ashira Prossack, a communications trainer and coach, says: “You always want to provide a sound reason, not an excuse, as to why you’re saying no. This helps the other person see things from your point of view and respond more rationally rather than reactively.”
6. Pick your objectives ruthlessly.
“Ruthless Prioritization is the elimination of what doesn’t drive you towards your goals,” says productivity coach Mike Lamb. “There is always too much to do, not enough time & time cannot be created.”
“So, your limited time must be intentionally invested,” he adds. “Being clear on your goals clarifies where to invest time.”
The key to ruthlessly picking your objectives is to decide when you will finish your tasks, how you will do so, how you will track your progress (and your team’s progress for managers), plus how you will utilize technology.
7. Make use of your team’s strengths.
When you have more time on your hands, you can approach each project with your best energy, focus, and strengths.
The solution is to delegate or to work better as a team.
There are strengths that are unique to each individual. To ensure projects are successfully completed, it’s essential to work as a team rather than in isolation. Each time you give up a task or project that isn’t a fit for your talents, you open yourself up to more opportunities., while also reducing your workload. In addition, you will empower yourself and those around you.
If you want to achieve the best results, look for someone you can team up with rather than take on all the responsibilities yourself.
8. Don’t do the maximum amount, do the optimum amount.
Many tasks don’t require military precision—for example, composing the “perfect” email or blog post.
Although you don’t want to deal with someone who points out your multiple grammatical errors, most people won’t even notice them.
Besides, most people don’t care about mistakes if it’s readable. The only thing that matters is whether or not you can convey your point through your words.
Overall, do as much as you need to. And don’t over-exert trying to excel at unimportant tasks.
9. Get rid of unnecessary meetings.
People tend to believe that meetings are necessary for everything. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A study by the University of North Carolina found that 65% of senior managers in various industries cannot finish their work because of meetings. In addition, 71% of respondents said meetings are inefficient and unproductive. And according to 64% of respondents, meetings take away time from deep thinking.
It is inevitable that meetings will be long, off-topic, and inefficient without an agenda. In other words, when no agenda is presented, no meeting is necessary.
A better idea would be to use Zoom. Not only will this save you time, but it’s also more convenient. But overusing video conferencing applications can lead to Zoom fatigue. If possible, consider sending your coworker an email, a Slack message, or making a phone call rather than using Zoom.
10. Practice self-compassion.
In times of difficulty or stress, being compassionate toward yourself is the most important thing to remember. But, of course, this isn’t the easiest of feats when you’re having a bad day.
But it’s a little easier if you organize your work to be more manageable. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of your vacation days and disconnect entirely during this time. And add some self-care to your calendar.
Also, make sure you spend time doing activities that bring you joy. And try to find ways to decompress on a daily basis. If you’re having a tough day, take regular breaks, decrease your workload, and take it easy on yourself.
The bottom line is that we are only human, after all.