Finding Balance on the Workplace Merry-Go-Round

The other day a co-worker and I were chatting in the breakroom late in the day when she threw her hands up exasperatedly and said, “My gosh … I have not stopped since I got here at 7 this morning. And I’ve yet to cross anything off my “To Do” list! How is that possible???”  Then we got into a fairly deep discussion about finding balance in life and work. Maybe it was the day we were both having, but for us, not being overwhelmed at work definitely makes our personal lives better.

So, how about it … do you feel stressed, stretched and overwhelmed at work? Do you feel like you have to multitask so often that nothing is getting done at your personal best? Not to fear … the following strategies and time-saving techniques will have you feeling like you’re back in control, finding balance and making the best of your workday.

Deal With Stress Head-on

One definition of stress is a condition or feeling when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” What is unique about this definition of stress lies in the fact that your personal definition may change based on your current life situation or even your tolerance to stress that day.

When stress is not dealt with in an effective manner, it can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. Eventually, a person begins to experience symptoms of burnout.

Consider using these 12 action steps to find balance and keep your stress under control:

  1. Determine why you are always in a hurry. Don’t create stress by rushing unnecessarily or not planning ahead.
  2. Identify your support group. If you can vent to someone you trust, it may relieve some of your stress.
  3. Figure out how much sleep you need and try to establish a regular sleep routine
  4. Eat nutritious food and drink plenty of water
  5. Exercise on a regular basis
  6. Don’t give up on hobbies that are relaxing. Find the time to maintain them even if you have to reduce the amount of time.
  7. Focus on one task at a time
  8. Use imagery. You can visualize a more calming environment to help take the edge off.
  9. Do some deep breathing throughout the day. This helps provide oxygen to your body as well as lower the effects of stress.
  10. Seek privacy when possible. Sometimes you just need a break, so take one in a quiet space.
  11. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
  12. Always set aside some “you” time! You need to have some time to yourself with no distractions or outside influences to be able to relax and decompress.

Multitasking Isn’t Helping

Multitasking means doing several tasks at the same time. It’s a buzzword for a “skill” that many people strive to use. But it might surprise you to know that recent research shows that multitasking usually does not save time (which is the basic premise of multitasking).

Because the brain cannot fully focus when multitasking, it takes longer to complete tasks. When people attempt to complete many tasks at one time, or alternate quickly between tasks, errors go way up and it takes much longer—often double the time—to finish the jobs than if they were carried out sequentially. This is largely because the brain must restart and then refocus.

According to the studies:
1. The time it takes to “switch” your mental processes between tasks is time-consuming and inefficient
2. Multitasking can lead to additional stress and irritability
3. Multitasking can lead to disorganization and errors

But in the real world, most people would agree that there are times when multitasking is a necessity.

When you multitask, you can be more efficient by:
1. Multitasking simple tasks
2. Performing those tasks that you do often. They will be easier to carry out due to repetition and familiarity.

Don’t Rush

Have you ever been in such a hurry that it took you twice as long to accomplish the simplest of tasks? Or have you ever felt so overwhelmed that you didn’t even know where to begin? These types of feelings are what lead to “hurry sickness,” a feeling that you have to always be in a rush.

Continuous partial attention is that state of mind most of us enter while we’re in front of a computer screen, or checking out at the grocery store with a cell phone pressed to an ear, or blogging the proceedings of a conference. We’re aware of several things at once, shifting our attention to whatever’s most urgent—perhaps the chime of incoming e-mail or the beep that indicates the cell phone is low on juice. It’s not a reflective state.

Slow down and be more productive:

  • Recognize that rushing creates more mistakes and more work
  • Keep a prioritized list and focus on one task at a time
  • Elicit help from others when appropriate
  • Celebrate closure of tasks
  • Lose the watch: Learn and use relaxation techniques that work for you

Look at the big picture in your life.  Work to live, don’t live to work

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