Photo by TIM GOUW
In our busy, modern world, we often succumb to feelings of work-related stress and exhaustion. As a result, panic sets in. Indeed, a recent UK study suggests that, in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. With ever-increasing workloads, excessive digital stimulation and shorter deadlines, what can you do to effectively manage your workload?
1. To-do lists
We love to feel organised. To-do lists are an age-old tactic for keeping work overload in check. Your brain is then free to focus on one task at a time. A study by Wake Forest University showed that, while tasks we haven’t done distract us, just making a plan to get them done can free us from this anxiety.
Start by treating yourself to a really nice notebook. You can write your to-do list down on paper or even on your office notebook. Take five minutes, over your morning coffee, to write out your tasks for the day. Didn’t get everything done? Simply jot it down for tomorrow. Separate personal and professional tasks, and avoid making the list too long; you want to feel the satisfaction of ticking things off as often as possible.
Otherwise known as “schedule blocking”, this process is important for work overload. It involves the use of an hour-by-hour diary. Using your to-do list, examine the number of hours you have in the day and block out certain times for certain tasks. Many people turn this into a creative process. For example, they use bright-coloured pens and highlighters to clearly demarcate their “blocks”. By allotting time to tasks and breaking them down into manageable pieces, you’ll feel like you’ve got more control over your work life and are better able to manage expectations.
3. Flex your ‘no’ muscle
We live in a world where “yes” is the default. However, we need to tame our inner “chimp” and embrace the power of “no”. Our inner “chimp” is our limbic system, the animalistic element of our brains that makes snap decisions. Instinctually, we act on impulse and say “yes” to things, often without thinking. Before too long, our stress management goes out of the window; we find ourselves bogged down with tasks and engagements we can’t handle. As nice as that colleague is, recognise your limits and be confident enough to say: “No, I’m sorry, I can’t fit that into my schedule right now.” And… breathe.
4. Give mobile apps a chance
The last place you may want to look for avoiding work-related stress is your mobile, but it’s actually a great way to avoid work overload and ensure your head is in a happy, clear place. By utilising a mobile phone rental service, you can ensure your fellow employees are always one click away from an app such as Headspace, which is described as a “gym membership for your mind” and allows you to meditate from the comfort of your office desk.
5. Find some peace
Ever feel like you’d like to escape from the office entirely? Changing the scenery by taking a walk or working in a different space is a great way to take a step back and reduce stress levels.
The break time stroll has even gone digital. Recent advances in VR (virtual reality) have opened the door to stress management experiences using the Oculus Rift virtual reality kit. During their break, workers can escape the sights and sounds of the office to relax in a peaceful setting. The system also has a mode whereby users can enjoy a peaceful setting but still receive real-time information and communications, allowing them to continue to work but in a much more relaxing scenario. Imagine if your desk was set in a forest glade… lovely! Initial studies have shown positive results in utilising VR for relaxation, even within a work environment. Perhaps your office will be next?
If you’re struggling with work overload, it’s important you don’t go it alone. Check out free resources, such as Mind UK or the Calm app for more information, or speak to your boss. You should always consult your GP if you think you are suffering from physical symptoms of personal or work-related stress.