How to feel less busy in a high-pressure environment

It’s an issue we can all relate to, with ever increasing workloads, pressures and demands on our time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with busy-ness.

Here are our top tips for coping with an ever increasing workload:

  • Manage your to-do list

To get started, lets address the problem head first. Either on an A4 sheet or an excel document, write down every single task you think you have to do. This may seem like an exhaustive list but at least it’s all written down in one place.

  • Prioritise your work load

In a commercial organisation, with conflicting priorities and pressures coming from multiple directions, it can be difficult to understand where to focus your attention. It’s worth taking the time to take a step back and assess your tasks.

Using the document you have just created, assign each task to a category:

  • Urgent
  • Important
  • Maintenance

Obviously urgent tasks, which are heavily time bound take priority If you haven’t been assigned a deadline for a task, set one for yourself, whether its today, tomorrow or next week. This will help you prioritise your workload on a daily basis and focus your attention on the required tasks. For tasks that sit outside these categories, and are a low priority with no specific deadline ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If you SHOULD be doing this task
  2. If YOU should be doing this task
  3. IF you should be doing this task

Asking yourself these questions will help you identify whether the task is actually something that you should be doing or whether someone else should be taking responsibility for it, or whether it needs doing at all.

Once you have completed this work, you will be able to identify the jobs you should focus on today, tomorrow and even next week. So create yourself a to-do list for that day and update your main sheet every day – removing what you have completed and adding new tasks.

  • Manage your time into blocks

If you spend an hour of quality time on a task, you will achieve much more than if you spend 5 hours on a task which you aren’t particularly focused on. You’ve got a to-do list, and have prioritised the urgent tasks, now work out how they fit into your day.

Be strict and limit yourself. There is considerable evidence to suggest that working longer makes you less productive. If you consistently find yourself running over your allocated time slot ask yourself:

  • Have I been realistic in my expectations of how long the task will take to complete?
    • In which case do you need to allocate longer for the task?
  • Have I been focused on the task, or did I get distracted?
    • What were you distracted by? Do you need to allocate a slot to that task?
  • Take your breaks!

You will inevitably achieve more when you are feeling fresh. Working through your breaks won’t achieve anything other than making you feel fatigued. Get away from your desk, and come back feeling motivated and productive.

  • Learn to say no

It’s nice to be asked to do things, it makes us feel useful and important, however if you gain a reputation for being helpful, you quickly become the go-to person in the office, and it’s difficult to pull back your time. If you’re feeling swamped, then learn to say no, people will respect you for that.

  • Don’t generate more work for yourself

Clearing out your inbox might feel like a productive use of time, but what happens when all of those responses start flooding in? Organising a meeting for later in the week might feel productive, but what about when you have to have that meeting. It’s amazing how many things can be solved with a quick phone call.

  • Ignore your inbox

Always focus on the task you are working on and do not let yourself be distracted by your inbox as that will just delay you further and add to your feelings off pressure. If you really want to focus, turn off your emails– if anything important arises then you will receive a phone call.

  • Slow down

Do not rush your work so that you can move on to the next task or project. Speed working more often than not will generate you more work in the long run as mistakes are made as your attention is limited. The urgency you have surrounded yourself with is doing nothing to reduce the feeling of being too busy.

In conclusion, by prioritising your tasks so you can manage your daily workload, by learning to say no and not volunteering yourself for more work, by giving yourself breaks and slowing down, you will find your work load instantly becomes more manageable. And more importantly your working life will become infinitely more enjoyable.

For more support in managing your environment read our article on 7 stress busting tips