Tuesday, July 16, 2013

10 Tips For Managing Time And Prioritizing Tasks

Photo by Microsoft Images
1. Know yourself. Keep a detailed log of how your time is spent. Identify what tasks take the most time, when you’re most productive, and common time wasters.

2. Avoid multitasking. Studies suggest that we can only focus on one project at a time and only for 40-90 minutes. Multitasking is a myth. Strive to “chunk” your time; trying to get everything done at once can result in nothing getting done at all.

3. Set goals and reward yourself. Set SMART goals; break down each large goal into key tasks and smaller “to-do” items. To stay engaged, celebrate each milestone as it is achieved.

4. Use a prioritizing formula. A structured format can help with important decisions concerning how to spend your time / what tasks to do first. Sample formats include Deadline/Payoff, Paired Comparison, Importance/Time, and Richard Bolles’ Prioritizing Grid (discussed in That Elusive Work-Life Balance).

5. Invest time in scheduling. Use calendars, task reminders, and/or Gantt charts to schedule your time. Chunk smaller or similar tasks together, but remember to build in some wiggle room, leave time for interruptions, and schedule regular breaks.

6. Be clear and concise when communicating. Use e-mail subject line, to, and cc fields effectively (i.e., subject line links to email purpose, to notes key recipients(s), cc reserved for FYI). Ensure any requests for action are clearly stated, addressed to specific individuals, and include due dates. Leave clear and concise voice mails; don’t assume someone has your phone number. Develop appropriate/effective agendas to guide meetings.

7. Make effective use of technology. With such a wide range of technologies available pick something that will work for you – not what’s “hot” today. Invest the time to fully understand every technology you use. Remember, low-tech solutions (e.g., tickler file) can sometimes work the best so don’t rule those out.

8. Avoid management by crisis. If you’re always fighting fires, you’re not productive. Plan your time and tasks effectively; don’t ignore upcoming deadlines as they tend to “sneak” up. Remember – stress and emotions interfere with productivity and impact decision-making capabilities, help if you get overwhelmed and/or feel unable to cope.

9. Delegate effectively. Only pass items on to someone who understands the task specifications/deadline and has the skills/ capacity to complete it effectively. Build in some extra time to monitor progress and review the product.

10. Learn to say no. If you can’t complete a task, it’s alright to say no. Be sure to provide a reason and work together to find solution (e.g., shifting priorities, delegating tasks, getting more resources).

This post was written by Life Strategies and is available in a pdf tip sheet format: http://lifestrategies.ca/docs/10-Tips-for-Managing-Time-and-Prioritizing-Tasks.pdf.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

10 Strategies For Managing Your Stress

Nearly 61% of respondents to a recent survey on stress reported they were at least somewhat stressed; however, 81% reported they managed their stress at least somewhat effectively. We’ve pulled together these tips, based on their responses, to help others manage their stress. 

1.  Know your triggers. Stress produces physiological responses – your body tenses, your heart rate rises, and you become flustered/scattered. Reflect on what, or who, triggers your stress and develop effective coping strategies or, if possible, avoid those situations altogether.

2.  Stay healthy. Keeping your body and mind strong by maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help build your stress tolerance and resiliency. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies (e.g., drinking, smoking) and focus on eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

3.  Regain control. According to Professor Cary Cooper, the “feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.” Recognize and accept that there will always be situations outside of your control and give yourself permission to let those things go. Be sure, however, to regain control of the things you can, even if they seem small.

4.  Maximize your support network. Maintain healthy relationships with your friends and family. Ask for help when you need it – whether it is just someone to talk to or one who can offer assistance. Remember that these relationships are reciprocal . . . be prepared to support those in your network as well.

5.  Sort out your priorities. Consider all the things that you’re juggling and identify what’s really important. A prioritizing grid is a great tool to help with this activity.

6.  Plan ahead. If you know there is going to be a particularly stressful time coming up at work or at home, reflect on what you’ll need to help you cope. Consider both what you can add to (e.g., an additional fitness activity, more sleep) or remove from (e.g., carpool duty for the upcoming school trip) your routine.

Photo by Microsoft Images
7.  Remember to play. Think about the activities that you love and make you laugh and feel energized (e.g., hiking, running, reading, knitting, listening to music, painting). Recharge and re-energize yourself by taking time, every day, to enjoy life; laughter truly can be the best medicine.

8.  Reframe your thinking. Consciously make an effort to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Consider what you can do rather than what you can’t. Ask yourself, is this a small inconvenience or a major catastrophe and be realistic in your appraisal. Remember that a small problem can seem huge when you’re either already feeling overloaded or not taking care of yourself.

9.  Take a moment. When experiencing a stress response, take a moment to practice stress reduction strategies. Focus on your breathing, count to 10 in your head, or repeat a mantra (e.g., “I am calm. I can handle this crisis”). After a brief break, you’ll be able to better process what’s happening and respond appropriately.

10.  Relax and reward yourself. Take time to relax and unwind after a particularly stressful time. Whether it’s a sweet treat, a night out on the town, or a vacation to a tropical island, a reward for “surviving” stress is always well deserved.

This post was written by Life Strategies and is available in a pdf tips sheet: http://lifestrategies.ca/docs/10-Strategies-for-Managing-Your-Stress.pdf