Five productivity hacks to help reduce stress

Workplace and wellbeing

20 October 2017

When management consultancy firm PwC carried out research into mental health, it found that over a third of UK employees are struggling with mental health issues, including stress.

Workplace stress is often caused by feeling out of control and overwhelmed by the volume and pressure of tasks, especially in a deadline-driven environment.

Focusing on time management and organisation can help you regain control and ultimately reduce stress at work. Try some of these techniques for your team and yourself.

A helping of Pomodoro

No, it’s not a type of cheese; it’s a time-management technique that busy people swear by. The Pomodoro approach advocates 25 minutes of focused work followed by a five-minute break. After four Pomodoro cycles, have a longer reward break.

Immersing yourself in a single task helps you to power through your to-do list. If another thought pops into your head, put it on a Post-It for later. Thanks to the regular breaks, you never get that head-spinning sensation that comes from prolonged concentration. The long-term benefit is that you develop a really good understanding of how long each task takes.

Dear diary

Simply getting out your diary (real or online) makes the world of difference. Start your working week right by planning key meetings, tasks and goals. Allocate realistic times to each job, and book in the most important deadlines first.

Make sure you allow contingency time – an inflexible schedule never works. Then, if unexpected issues don't crop up, you’ll have some spare hours. This leads to an important stress-busting point: diarise free time. This is important for self-employed people, who don’t always have a routine of regular breaks. Build gaps into your busy schedule for a breather and you’ll come back refreshed and more productive.

It only takes two minutes...

One of the greatest enemies of time management is procrastination. The two-minute rule deals with time-wasting by encouraging us to get stuck in. There are two parts to the two-minute rule. Firstly: if something takes under two minutes, just do it now. This could be replying to an email, booking an appointment or making a quick phone call.

Of course, most work-based tasks require longer than this; and the second part of the rule reminds us that even large projects can be started in less than two minutes. Whether it’s opening a book or a new document, you’ve made a start. The rest will follow.

Standing up for efficient meetings

Standing meetings have been around for a while, and they can be a brilliant way of keeping meetings short and to the point. Research by Washington University indicated that standing meetings also encouraged creative sharing and broke down territorial boundaries.

Some companies have taken this a few steps further (literally), and introduced “the walking meeting”. Again, it cuts down on in-meeting procrastination, with the additional benefit of fresh air and exercise. Just make sure that your colleagues are comfortable standing or walking for these periods.

Stop multitasking

You might think that the ability to juggle many jobs is a huge time-management advantage. Actually, research by psychologists into multitasking showed that the mental switch we need to make as we move between tasks takes time. Even if this is a mere split second, the “switch costs” add up, and there’s also greater risk of error and reduced concentration. This suggests that if you want to maximise productivity, complete one task before moving on.

The Pomodoro technique could really help here, just as it also ties in well with diary management.

So don’t look at each of these five techniques in a vacuum, but try combinations of strategies and see what works for you. And for more information on different resources that could help you boost your productivity, take a look at what other Entrepreneurs Recommend.