Americans are overworked, overstressed, and overstretched. We seem to exist in an endless cycle of working hard then harder without an equal return on our investment. In a perfect world, we’d jet off to an island in the Caribbean and leave all our troubles behind. But in the real world, how can we work smarter instead of harder?
Here’s a few tips.
· Make lists. If you’re not a fan of to-do lists, it’s time to start. You’d be surprised how much more efficiently your day will move if you know exactly what you need to get done and when. But you don’t need to just focus on what you need to do—you can also make a list of what you don’t need to do. What items can you push to tomorrow, or cancel altogether? Are there pointless meetings that you can decline or reschedule? Remember: Your time is valuable. Lists will help you use each hour wisely.
· Take breaks. We all get caught up in the workday and forget to give ourselves a break. We think taking a break will put us behind, but the opposite is true. If you don’t take breaks, you could experience burnout. Strong mental health is the key to surviving an overwhelming work day. Feed your brain and soul by allowing it to rest.
· Sleep. Speaking of resting, you need to make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that poor sleeping habits contribute directly to decreased productivity and a decline in work performance.
· Move on. When a project is over, move on—even if it didn’t go the way you planned. Don’t get hung up on perceived failures or mistakes. Learn from them, but keep on trucking. Forward is the way when your plate is full.
· Say no. Do you find yourself compelled to insert yourself into every team project? Do you say yes when you should say no? You’re only hurting yourself. It’s not fair to you or your team if you take on more than you can handle. Learn to say no, and don’t feel like you have to apologize for it. If you’re overwhelmed, be diplomatic and honest. Say, "I have a lot on my plate, so I’m not sure I can give this project the attention it deserves.”
· Take a look and your calendar. Ask yourself: Is this the best use of my time? If it isn’t, reconsider.