Remember when you were a kid and summertime meant hanging out with friends, sleeping late and going on vacation?
Now, summertime means you’ve got to try and figure out how to get all your work done before you take time off, cover for vacationing colleagues and keep the kids from killing one another while they’re out of school.
Somehow, the summertime giddiness of our youth has turned into the dread of too much work and too little time.
The problem is that this feeling of being overworked isn’t confined just to the dog-days of summer, but seems to be a feeling we experience all year.
A recent survey for Huffington Post finds that 77% of us feel stressed “regularly,” with the biggest causes of that anxiety being reported as too much work and too little time. Words such as “pressure,” “overwhelmed” and “inadequate” were used as descriptions of the feelings that stress evokes.
Stop channeling a hamster
Carson Tate, managing partner at Working Simply, says there are steps you can take if you want to stop feeling like a hamster on a never-ending exercise wheel. If you want to find more ways to enjoy your summer – and all the other times of the year – you can begin by:
- Recognizing that time is a commodity. If your co-worker asked for a bunch of money, would you just hand it over? Probably not. But Tate says we often do that with our time. “We’re so willing to give away our time,” she says. “But it’s a commodity you cannot get back.”
She suggests thinking about how much your time is worth per hour.
“Then look at how long you’re spending in meetings, on various tasks or writing emails. If you’re sitting in a meeting where you’re not contributing and could instead be working on an important project, then that has a direct bottom-line impact,” she says.
- Develop a five-minute list. If you’re sitting at a swim meet waiting for your child’s competition, it’s a good time to read an industry article you’ve wanted to peruse, or even make a quick phone call to schedule a vet’s visit for the cat. If you write down all the things you can do in five minutes, you can check them and quickly take care of them when you have time.
- Create a “stop doing” list. You may have had the best of intentions to learn to knit, but those knitting classes at night are draining and you wind up tired and grumpy the next day. Time to dump them from the list, along with anything else that isn’t necessary for your well-being.
- Focus on “to do” instead of a “project.” “I need to clean out the garage,” you say to yourself, right before you become overwhelmed by the thought and instead decide to go for ice cream. Tate advises that tackling such a big project can quickly overwhelm you, so think of a “to do” item instead, such as researching better storage options for the garage.
- Turn off notifications. Our urge to multitask is brought on when we are pinged by an email while working on a report, or beeped by an incoming text while sitting in a meeting, she says. While you can multitask some things – such as unloading the dishwasher and talking to a friend – trying to multitask items that need deeper thought processes is never a good idea, she says.
“Try having designated days to get certain tasks done, such as creating time on Monday to coach your employees,” she says. “You’ll be much more efficient and productive rather than trying to jump from task to task.”
- Learn to group. Instead of taking care of emails as they come in or several times an hour, try to set a time to answer them all at once. Or, run errands geographically so you do many of them at one time, which will cut down on the amount of time you spend in the car.
Tate says it’s important to remember that you are “at choice,” which means you can take back control over how you structure your tasks. If you resolve to take back your choices and your time, you’ll find you are less stressed and more productive, she says.