A Day in the Life of Stress: Effective Planning
Effective planning can help to give you more structure to the day, and you will benefit greatly as it will ease stress levels and give back a sense of control.
Planning is beneficial to anyone who finds that they have a lot to do, but not much time to do it in! By successfully planning your day, you can work out the resources you need to complete any problem that life throws at you. From this you can work out realistic times for completion and delivery to other people.
Not being able to do this will increase your sense of stress and you, in turn, will pass this on to the people you work with, your partner, family and even your friends.
In the fast, hectic pace of the modern world, being disorganised is a strong disadvantage – getting the bills paid on time, handing in an assignment or completing a job task can be difficult if you don’t plan and prioritise your work. Fortunately, activity logs, action plans and to-do lists are tools you can use to help you do just that.
Organise Your Time
A simple way to help identify where your time is being spent is to do an activity log or a time schedule. This is a general tip that can be useful no matter what the task, because it will help you to understand how you use your time. This involves writing down everything you do in your day, as your memory will easily deceive!
Break your day up into 30 minute blocks of time, and then fill it in as you go along. For example, 7.30-8.00: making the children’s lunchboxes, or 9.00-10.00: clearing emails. Try to keep the log for about two weeks. By the end of the day, you will have a clear picture about which tasks take you longer to complete and their frequency. This will help you to manage your time better.
Find out how to use lists to make your work load more manageable. Don’t be too draconian, however, as everyone needs a break from work now and again.
- Now you know how to do a basic activity log, you can make it more advanced. Next to the timeslots, note how you are feeling, whether you are tired, energetic or flat doing any given task. This will help determine how stressed you are.
Taking time out
- When completing your log, remember not to be too harsh on yourself. A cup of coffee and a chat with colleagues is not a waste of time but a much needed break. If you take too many breaks during your day then you could be procrastinating and wasting time.
Breaking it down
- Creating a to-do list will help you focus on the most important tasks, without letting anything ‘slip through’ by mistake. When you have several tasks to complete or different kinds of tasks, organising yourself can be difficult. So, begin by writing down all the tasks that you need to complete. If they are large ones, try to break them down into more manageable tasks. This will make them seem less intimidating.
List of importance
- Then work down the list and prioritise the tasks you have listed numerically, with one being the most important. If you have several tasks of equal importance, then add a letter so that you know which tasks are of greater importance. For example ‘3B’ may be the second most important tasks in your list of ‘3’ tasks. If, when you read through your list, you have too many high priorities, go back over it and demote some. When prioritising your list, remember to leave contingency time for unexpected delays.
Assessing your priorities
- Remember to assess each task on two important points: the urgency of the job and importance of it. If you are paying a bill, that might not seem that important but if it has reached the payment date, you need to pay it off quickly. In a work situation, if you feel that you are unable to complete an important job, let your boss know and explain the reasons why. They may be more understanding than you think.
Different types of lists
- Different people can use to-do lists in many different ways. If you are looking after children, then it may be useful to have a short to-do list because you don’t have a lot of time in between dropping off and collecting them. In the workplace, the tasks might be larger or you are dependant on too many other people. Having one big to-do list might be easier to manage as you can delegate tasks. This means that you might carry over low priority tasks, but don’t let this worry you. If a deadline for them approaches, then raise their priority.