5 powerful practices to help manage workplace stress
1. Establish a reliable inbox
One of the biggest sources of controllable work stress is the persistent feeling you’re letting things slip through the cracks. In his bestselling book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen identifies the ambiguity of not confidently knowing what needs to be done as one of the greatest sources of workplace stress and anxiety for busy people.
To combat those stressors, he prescribes a reliable inbox. In today’s world, that really means two inboxes: a physical one for the actual paper, mail, notes and other matter-based bits that come into your life and signify stuff that needs doing; and a virtual one for email and to-dos.
Email inboxes make a good option for a digital inbox since that’s where the bulk of our incoming workplace tasks show up in the first place. In addition to naturally incoming email, you can send yourself tasks and things to remember. Simple, single-line task entries fit neatly into subject lines, and you can put additional notes or attachments in the body of the email if needed.
Allen insists that the separation of your workplace and home tasks should not matter when it comes to inboxes. If picking up milk on the way home needs to happen, it’s just as worthy of a place in your inbox as a reminder to file that report to your boss.
Once you’ve established your digital and physical inboxes, use them faithfully. Every time you receive a task input, such as a text message with a request in it, get it into your digital inbox.
2. Prioritize ruthlessly
An old saying goes, “If everything is a priority, then nothing is.” In all probability, you have more potential workplace tasks that you could do than you actually can do. Unnecessary tasks can quickly become unnecessary stressors.
A simple classification system known as the Eisenhower Matrix makes prioritization easy. For any given task, decide if it’s important and if it’s urgent. This may seem obvious, but how many times have you fallen behind on important projects because you spent your time on more urgent — but less important — things? Urgent, unimportant things may be time sensitive, but they may not be worth your time.
Do the urgent and important things first, and be willing to let the unimportant things slide completely. This can help make your day-to-day less stressful and contribute to your overall workplace well-being.