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Debamita Banerjee

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Time Management Strategies to Reduce Stress

Time is our biggest resource but it is also the most difficult to get a grip on. It seems to stretch on when we need to do something we don't particularly enjoy whereas if you're chasing a deadline or relaxing, time seems to pass by in a blink. Our perception of time is subjective to our perception of life.    

Although everybody has to go through stress in their lives at one point or the other, keeping it under control is essential for your mental well-being. A heavy workload is one of the most common causes of stress. If you're following a demanding career path or have too much on your plate to handle because of work, family responsibilities, and finances, you need an organized schedule. If you do not manage your time strategically, excessive stress can cause you to break down and burn out.    

Time management is a long-term solution for your stress and can better the quality of your life in general. 

What is Stress? 

Stress is our body's response to unfavorable circumstances. It surfaces in the form of physical, mental, and emotional reactions. It can be triggered by any event that causes pain, fear, tension, exhaustion, frustration, nervousness, and anger. Under stress, our body goes under fight-or-flight mode and releases hormones such as cortisol.  

Stress can be beneficial in short bursts as it prompts our body to protect itself and drives us to do better, but excessive stress can be hazardous. It can disrupt your mental state and put you at risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, insomnia, cardiac diseases, depression, and anxiety.

Time Management Techniques

Time management is used to maximize one's efficiency throughout the time they spend working. It can help you accomplish tasks faster, be more productive, and have the freedom to do more things. Although it must be kept in mind that managing your time does not mean half-heartedly finishing things up and hampering the standard of your work.    

Everybody has a specific environment or routine they function the best in, so try the tips mentioned below to selectively choose the ones that match your work approach. It'll simplify your lifestyle and lower your stress levels.  

Set your Priorities Straight

You need to know what your priorities are in life to devote your time to them accordingly. Once you've made sure that the activities essential for your sustenance have your adequate attention, only then should you take up additional work, otherwise, you're going to end up tired each day even though all your needs are not being met properly. 

When you curate this list, take into account not only professional but also personal factors.  

Plan your Day the Night Before  

Planning your day puts you in control over how you spend your time instead of being dragged by any work that randomly pops up in your mind. It helps you organize your tasks and make sure that everything important is finished within the allotted deadline.  When you feel like you're in the driving seat of your life, you tend to feel much more confident about your circumstances and hence, are less stressed.  

You can plan things out in your head but numerous studies have shown that people who write down their goals are up to 10 times more likely to achieve them. So, keep a journal or use the various digital planners available to sort out your objectives each day.  

Stop Procrastinating

Procrastination is the biggest evil against all productive pursuits. You need to stop postponing things and then overthinking about them later. The first step is often the hardest one to take so just start work each day without putting much thought into it, leave the planning for the night before. If you're wasting your time wondering about a specific task when you've got a lot on your agenda, evaluate if it's a high-priority item. If it's not, then defer it and move on to other things. In case it is an essential chore, lead up to it slowly within the day but do not leave it as the last thing you need to do.

Avoid Multitasking 

A Stanford University study showed that multitasking on media platforms is harmful to the brain and it minimizes our capacity to concentrate. 

Doing multiple tasks at once sounds very enticing when you're trying to step up your productivity, but it actually ends up taking more time. Especially if you're a student, studying from multiple sources at once can lead to poor retention of information. You're bound to be stressed when you realize that you've invested so much time into learning something but have nothing to show for it on the exam day. Hence, fully commit yourself to one assignment at a time.

Block Distractions  

Create a clear distinction between your work hours and your relaxation time. Mixing the two will lead you to not having a satisfactory yield from either. While working, turn down notifications from social media apps and avoid picking up calls unless it's a situation that needs your immediate attention. Focus on what you are supposed to do. This will help you finish your work faster while preserving its quality and give you ample time to unwind later.

Learn how to say "No"  

Setting boundaries and saying no to things can often feel selfish. You might be biting much more than you can chew simply because you don't want to disappoint the people around you. In actuality, exposing yourself to more responsibilities than you're capable of handling just hinders your progress. Most of the work you do will either not be good or its quality will deteriorate over time as you start to burn out. This will cause a greater debacle both on your part and the people dependent on you.    

You don't have to worry about being rude when you refuse to do things. Just state your reasons kindly and any mature person would understand.  

Have a Structured Schedule 

If you have specific work and rest hours assigned each day, it makes it easier for you to get into a productive zone when required. Our brains are adaptive to routines. Thus, by creating a schedule you can train your mind to release alertness cues whenever you need to get your duties done.

Take Breaks

It can feel counterintuitive to take breaks when you have an enormous amount of work, but working for long periods of time only diminishes your productivity. Surveys show that a majority of workers feel that they do their jobs more efficiently when they take a break from time to time but do not do so because of guilt. Hence, take a breather when you need it to so that your work doesn't become too tedious. Engage in self-care practices to rejuvenate your mind and body.  

Stay Healthy  

Overworking can cause a mental and physical collapse. One of the most overlooked but crucial time management techniques is to take care of your health. If you're sick then you won't be able to do any work at all, the stress due to the lack of which is just going to further aggravate your condition.  

Eat 3-4 nutritious and satiating meals every day. Get some exercise, albeit a 15-minute walk in your garden. Higher energy levels are known to boost efficiency. Spend time doing things that cheer you up to stay mentally healthy as well.

The Pomodoro Technique 

The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It includes working on a single task with a timer by your side to create a high-pressure and high-focus environment. It is one of the most celebrated time management and productivity techniques of all time.  

To follow the Pomodoro method, work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. After every 4 such cycles, take a longer break of 10-15 minutes. This will increase your output and minimize your fatigue.  

Ask For Help  

Do not let your shyness or ego come in the way of productive collaborations when needed. If your workload is getting too much for you whether it's at home or office, communicate your current condition to the people around you and share your work. Suffering in silence can feel noble at the moment but it's going to make you resentful in the long term and cause mental distress.

If you notice your stress lingering despite practicing all of the methods stated above, it's possible that your stress is not just a result of a challenging occupation, but has deeper underlying causes. Consulting a healthcare professional would be the best course of action in this case. Visit www.iamears.com to access one-on-one online counseling sessions with acclaimed psychiatrists and counselors who will patiently listen to your issues, diagnose your condition and provide you with suitable solutions. You can also vent out all your emotions and thoughts on the Iamears forum anonymously while interacting with empathetic individuals who are going through the same issues as you.  

CONCLUSION

Positive reinforcements such as time management are not only a way of coping with your stress, but also a form of self-care. You're engaging in practices that help you lead a healthier and more pleasant life.    

Your plans might not all pan out every day regardless of how well you manage your time. Do not obsess and lose hope over momentary lapses. The main idea behind this exercise is to bring order and coherence to your life and eradicate stress. Do not let sticking to every minute of your schedule become a brand new cause of stress.    

In the video linked below, renowned psychiatrist Dr. Ashish Mittal briefly explains the importance of time management in stress management.

REFERENCE

  1. The Psychology Of Writing Down Goals - https://www.newtechnorthwest.com/the-psychology-of-writing-down-goals/ 
  2. Why Your Employees Are Scared to Take A Break - https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/your-employees-are-scared-to-take-a-break.html