How to reduce stress in the long run

Very often we get trapped between urgent tasks and looming dead lines, without being able to concentrate duly on one task only. And with so much stress, creativity and motivation are the first to die. However, there is a simple trick how you can get out of this daily rat race, by remembering Parkinson’s Law, which says

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This means that the task you planned 1 hour for will take you 1 hour. And if you have a day for it, you will only finish it by the end of the day. In order to solve this situation, there is a very simple trick:

Each morning, before opening your email, dedicate one hour of the day to solve one important, but not-urgent task.

If it makes you nervous not to check your inbox at first, do so, but make sure that you switch back to your not-urgent task after scanning through the emails. Don’t do anything urgent before solving this first task of the day. Why does this reduce your stress level?

  • Those other urgent tasks can be resolved just as well in 7 hours than in 8 hours. So you are basically gaining one hour in highly qualitative work.
  • The very important, but not urgent task you have solved won’t be able to stress you out on another day when it would become urgent. Because it is done already.
  • If you do one important thing every day, there will be less stressful moments left, because you are reducing those potential deadlines.
  • The rest of the day is much more relaxes, if you got something crucial done already. Don’t underestimate the psychological effect of work done with peace and high quality results.

I personally leave a post-it note on my computer before leaving work, stating one or two important tasks to be solved the next day. The first thing in the morning is dedicated to those tasks, and only one hour later I actually open my email. This helps me to actually starting to work right away instead of having to decide in the morning which non-urgent task will be done today. Because with decisions it is the same principle: they can be taken within 5 min if you are about to leave work, but they will need 50 min of careful pondering if you just arrived.

2 thoughts on “How to reduce stress in the long run

  1. A really interesting idea. A very important concept to keep in mind is how much can be accomplished, over time, through a series of small improvements. You are very correct in what you say: Solving a little problem today means you have one less obstacle tomorrow. Over time, that adds up to a transformation of how you work and how much you can accomplish.

    Elephants are hard to swallow – best to work on it one bite at a time. ;^)

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