Work in units
Working long hours may feel effective, but the opposite tends to be true. More hours do not equal more quality output. Instead, working in units – 45 minutes of focused work, then 15 minute break – may produce better results and actually reduce stress. The unit method involves setting a timer for 45 mins, interrupting your work right where you are, setting the timer for a 15 minute break, and repeat. Reduce interruptions
In order for units to work at their best, we need to be focused. That means we need to make sure we are not interrupted. So, no phone, no Facebook, no internet, no email, no doing the dishes, no cleaning, no chatting to colleagues. Just focus on one task for the entire unit. Batch simpler tasks
Batching is a word borrowed from the printing industry, where one prints similar stuff – like business cards – together, before adjusting the machines to print for example books. When it comes to other work, batching means to collect a bunch of minor tasks – like answering emails – and do them in chunks instead of now and then as they easily interrupt high quality work. Do one thing at a time
Multitasking may feel efficient – but in fact it is not. Try this:
- Start a timer and write your name and phone number on a piece of paper. Note the time.
- Start a timer and write the first letter of your name, then the first number of your phone number. Then, the second letter of your name, and the second number of your phone number, and continue like that until you have written all the letters of your name and all numbers in your phone number. Note the time.
- Was there a difference between the time it took to complete the task in 1 and 2?
For most of us there is a big difference, favoring doing one thing and then the other. The effort it takes for our brains to try to do two things at the same time is also often much higher – so it also makes us more tired. Set clear boundaries
An added modern day stressor is the blurred barrier between work and personal life that has increased massively the last few years. Even though many of us enjoy the new opportunities of working from home, it is so easy to go down that slippery slope and start checking emails, taking a zoom meeting, writing some extra or reading up on something in the evening. The research on this is however very clear: we benefit from boundaries. When work hours are work hours, family hours are family hours and me-time is me-time. Work-life-balance may be a worn out expression, but a very valid one.
Take real breaks
A real break means to do something that's the opposite from working/stressing activity. Working in front of a computer? Break with movement and no screen time. Working with heavy lifting? Break with resting. Taking short breaks often is better than a single long break, for both brain and body.