One of the biggest stressors for most people is time. We simply don't feel we have enough of it. In fact, most of us do have enough time — we are just not using it in a savvy way. We either waste it or allow others around us to waste our time.
Time management doesn't mean shoving more and more tasks into less and less time. It means learning to plan our work time more effectively, putting things in the right order, using all available resources, then following through with the plan. It means working smarter, not harder. That way, we will have more free time for things we enjoy doing.
Here are seven smart tips on time management that really work to reduce stress:
1. Organize your day.
Planning out your day is something you should do every day, either in the evening of the previous day, or first thing in the morning. There are always interruptions and unplanned demands on your time, but create a definite plan for the day. Be sure to include all of the important health habits like menu planning, time for exercise and relaxation exercises, and socializing.
2. Set priorities.
Realize that you can only accomplish so much in a day. Decide what's important, and limit your efforts to those goals. This requires setting short-term, small goals that are doable.
3. Delegate more often.
Delegate as much authority and work as you can. You can't do everything yourself. Learn to train others, depend on others, and ask for help when you need it.
4. Tackle the toughest jobs first.
Each day, handle the most important tasks first, while your energy levels are high. Leave the busywork or running around for later in the day. Often the most difficult job is the one we dread most, so we put it off. Worrying about an undone, dreaded task causes instant stress, so get the job done and sail through the rest of the day.
5. Minimize meeting time.
Schedule meetings to bump up against lunch hour or quitting time; that way they can't last forever. If you can do meetings by email, do it. It saves everyone's time to answer questions or offer comments in writing.
6. Avoid putting things off.
Work done under the pressure of an unreasonable deadline often has to be redone. That creates more stress than if it had been done right the first time. Plan ahead. Chip away at hard tasks so you experience some progress on them every day.
7. Don't be a perfectionist.
Do your best in a reasonable amount of time, then move on to other important tasks. If you find time, you can always come back later and polish the task some more. Often, 95% is good enough.
It just takes a little practice and a bit of self-discipline to greatly improve your time-management skills. Once you get the hang of it, you should find that your life becomes much more manageable, and that your stress levels will be greatly reduced.
Michael T. Murray, N.D., is a naturopathic physician regarded as one of the world's top authorities on natural medicine. An educator, lecturer, researcher, and health food industry consultant, he is the author of more than 30 books, including his newest book The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated (Clarkson Potter, January 2014). Readers who sign up for Weekly Natural Facts Newsletter at the website (drmurray.com) will receive a free copy of Dr. Murray's new ebook, Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia! What the Drug Companies Won't Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn't Know.