“The best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

Sydney J. Harris

Read the title again. It’s a pertinent question: is workplace stress killing you? Even if we haven’t been mortally wounded, managing stress at work can bleed into every aspect of our lives, leaving us as good as dead.

We are tied to our jobs more than ever. These days, it’s not only our daily workload that can be burdensome. Even things that could stay on our desk until tomorrow are now pushed to our phones via text, email, calls and an array of other ways. Work no longer falls in the 9-5 category. Instead, we are worried and stressed 24/7.

All too often, after the workday is long over, we find ourselves asking the questions: Did that employee show up for their shift? Am I going to make payroll projections this period? Did that vendor get my email? All of these stresses and extra hours are neatly lumped together under the banner of “multi-tasking” (a term that has been packaged and branded in such a way that we believe we are masters in the fine art of badassery). It expertly pads our ego by appealing to how much we can accomplish. But really, we’re stressed, juggling too much, and headed for burnout.

Today let’s right the ship. In this post, we will learn new ways to cope with workplace stress and streamline our processes so we aren’t just managing stress but our lifestyles.

1. Focus on a Single Task

Chances are you’re juggling too much. You have deadlines. You have emails. There are multiple things looming that need finished right now. However, stress is your body’s response to challenge or demand. When you have too much demanding your attention, your stress levels skyrocket. You may rationalize that once you get your checklist done, the stress will disappear. Only to be hit with a new list next week. Instead of being pushed into a vicious cycle, we must learn to manage those stresses differently. We need to break the rhythm altogether.

In order to manage the stress of “too much”, we must learn focus. Focus is quite simply, making something the center of attention. When you’re juggling multiple things, nothing is in focus- it’s a flurry of hands and balls in the air. To focus, we must pull back and carve out intentional blocks of time in order to complete individual tasks. Even if you have a lot on your plate, you don’t have to eat everything at once.

Create focus by reworking your calendar (use these tips to help manage your calendar successfully). Set aside blocks of time to work on a certain project, read/respond to emails, return calls, process payroll, etc. In these periods of time, nothing is allowed to deter you from the task at hand. Everything on your checklist will have a time and place and should be neatly categorized to allow the utmost focus- which, in turn, manages stress levels.

Think of it the same way as recycling. It’s easier to separate the recyclables first rather than rummage through a full bin of garbage and pull out the cans, papers, and bottles. If you opt for the latter, you’re sure to miss something and you’ll end up messy and gross. By categorizing your waste at the onset, there’s no looming process of sifting through the garbage and trying to make sense of it. Categorization of your tasks is similar. Not only will it create focus, but will also help you manage your stress levels and ultimately create a better product.

2. Don’t Let Your Inbox Dictate Your To-Do List

We are slaves to response. In a world saturated with instant-gratification, technology, and push notifications we feel the pull to answer questions as soon as they are presented. In fact, consumer studies report that any correspondence that lies dormant for an hour or more is considered bad customer service. With information like that swirling around on the internet, it’s inevitable that we would allow the wants and requests of others to hijack our day.

Well, stop it. Your inbox and your phone are not your to-do list (click here to see what the founder of NerdWallet says about that). If you allow the messages and correspondence you receive to become your checklist- you’ve traded your driver’s seat for an Uber ride. Which can be costly, destroy your freedom, and most of the time be downright unpleasant.

If you’ve already committed to taking control of your calendar as mentioned above, there is a built-in time and place to sift through your email and respond to the plights of others. Which opens up the time to prioritize your personal to-do list. What do YOU want to accomplish this week? This month? This year? Chances are you have desires and ideas to move your company/department/workforce forward. Why not do that?

We simply spend too much time putting out fires as they arise instead of creating processes and programs to prevent the flames altogether. It’s important to shift from our reactionary instincts (which creates stress) to proactive measures (which manages stress). A previous blog post of ours touched on the importance of taking control of your day, and how it’s important to have forward momentum at all times. A personal to-do list that isn’t dictated by your inbox will do that.

Managing what is important to you allows you to remain in control. Instead of being at the whim of others, you can steer in any direction you’d like and rest assured you won’t be knocked off course. You didn’t create the list that rests in your inbox, so don’t allow it to take priority over what you intend to get completed. By prioritizing your to-do list above all else, you are proactively managing stress and taking back the driver’s seat.

3. Learn to Delegate

Sometimes you can have your calendar streamlined, your to-do list prioritized, and still not enough hours in the day to complete all that needs to be done. Realize that you might be doing too much. It’s time to consider delegating the tasks that are paralyzing your ability to focus on what can push your department forward.

If you’re well-acquainted with our blog, you know that we are a commercial cleaning company. We take on the janitorial headaches, so you don’t have to. If that’s an item on your to-do list that is leaving you anxious and stressed, perhaps outsourcing those duties will benefit you. But before you roll your eyes, know that this isn’t a sales pitch. This is information designed to help you manage stress. I’m simply giving you an avenue to outline the tasks that could be delegated or outsourced in order to remove the “too much” that’s set up camp in your workflow.

Maybe you are bogged down with computer maintenance and other computer-y stuff, in that case, consider outsourcing to an I.T. company or a colleague that is more technologically inclined. Perhaps vendor invoices and bookkeeping is taking up precious minutes in your day, is there an accountant or coworker who could integrate that into their daily tasks? Everything from scheduling to payroll has the option of being delegated or outsourced, it’s up to you to decide where your time is best spent.

Delegate the small stuff and prioritize the things that will make you and your department shine. By removing things from your plate, not only does your day become manageable again, but your overall results significantly improve. Sometimes, managing stress is as simple as doing less.

Our egos are stroked when we try to do everything (and more). But ultimately we are just allowing stress to dictate our lives. In order to manage stress effectively, we must learn what to remove from our workload, prioritize our personal to-do lists, and categorize everything to fit neatly in it’s own time and place. The fine art of badassery doesn’t come from being a brilliant multi-tasker. It comes from managing stress proactively.

And sometimes, it happens by just shutting off your phone.