Stress and Time
Life is full of time commitments. We are all only given 24 hours in a day, everyday. Despite how many things need to get done, 24 hours is still an equal for all of us. We all have several roles and responsibilities to fill, whether they are related to our jobs, our family or our hobbies. With so many things that need to get done, priority-setting and time–management are essential skills to learn in this fast-paced busy age.
An age-old approach for priority setting is the “urgent vs. important matrix.” When we are able to prioritize tasks, we are more able to use our time more effectively. The chart at the beginning of this post explains this matrix. There are 4 quadrants to the box:
1. Urgent, Important
2. Urgent, Not important
3. Not Urgent, Important
4. Not Urgent, Not Important
Think through a typical day in your mind and place each activity that the you do in one of the four boxes. Here is how to decide where each item belongs:
1. Urgent, Important – Putting out stressful fires, Crisis or deadline. Work deadlines, family emergencies, project/homework is due, major complaint from large company.
2. Urgent, Not important – red herrings (plausible but not important or relevant) , Interruptions like phone calls, some office meetings, some mail, chose of colors on a wall.
3. Not Urgent, Important – Creative pro-activity,- quality time/production, Preparation, prevention, planning, career development, long-term strategy, relationship building, personal fulfillment, family time, going to gym…
4. Not Urgent, Not Important – time wasting. TV, Internet, Video games, Fun, relaxing, does not add much of any other value, distractions, trivial activities, “escape.” We need to spend some time in all of these areas but you are going to make a lot of money spending more time in the important category.
The trick is to find a proper and healthy balance. Living only in the urgent category will burn you out quickly. Living in the not urgent box can be unproductive which can lead to more stress down the road.
Many type “A” personalities, can easily become workaholics who do not give time for themselves. This could mean spending more time doing things to relax that are not important and definitely not urgent. This could be enjoying some TV or time on social media. These can be therapeutic in some cases. So it is okay to have some time wasters in your life. But I suggest also spending some time on the “not urgent, but important” box, this could be going to the gym, spending quality time with family, because taking care of yourself is IMPORTANT. It is often just neglected.
While it is normal for people to often feel guilty for leaving work early to spend time with family (as an example), and it is okay to feel that way, but what is more important is working through that guilt. Think of it this way, you are going to be even better employee once you have taken care of yourself and your family. You will be more energized and fulfilled if you, yourself are taken care of.
Another major issue can just be learning how to say “no,” especially for people pleasers. They love to serve and help and get things done but hate to disappoint people. We can work through this in session also with assertiveness training.
1. Define your goals. Goals give us the following:
a. meaning and direction for our lives
b. a means in which we can evaluate our progress
c. a plan to follow
2. Create a to-do list. Organize what you have to do. Split up large projects into small parts. Create a to-do list for each part. Take your goals and break them down into small, measurable steps.
3. Finish what you start If interrupted, return to finish your task.
4. Identify your time wasters. Time wasters are not only actions in Quadrant IV, but also can be indecision, lack of planning, jumping from project to project, a disorganized desk, procrastination, insisting on perfection. Finish one project before starting the next. You’ll save time not having to re-acquaint yourself with each project.
5. Use email filtering software. Stop wasting time scanning for junk email and deleting them.
6. Be project specific before you sit down at your PC . Have you ever sat down at your PC to work on one project, but after a half-hour or an hour passes by, you have accomplished nothing towards your goal? By being project specific at the computer, you can focus on one item and be more efficient. You can also avoid wasting time on Quadrant IV items.
7. Practice the “two-minute pick-up” every time you leave a room or your desk. Before you leave a room, turn around and quickly put away everything for two minutes. The more you put away before you leave, the smoother your transition when you return and the less you have to distract you at your desk!
8. Avoid procrastination. You can do anything for 10 minutes. To get yourself started on something that you have been procrastinating on, grab a timer and set it for 10 minutes. Then do that one thing for 10 minutes. If you continue on after that, great! If not, you at least put 10 minutes into that task.
9. Delay gratification. Give yourself some rewards for completing tasks. Treat yourself to dessert after you have avoided procrastination. Don’t go out to eat until you have completed items off your to-do list. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to buy that new pair of jeans if you haven’t completed your tasks.