We’ve all been there; you feel like you’ve worked all day without any breaks and yet you didn’t even make a dent in your load for the day. How does this happen? It can be very disheartening and certainly does not contribute to a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment. Let’s consider some ways to get organized and alleviate stress.

Our world is busy, and expectations are high, so many of us fall into the trap of resorting to multitasking.

The reality is, research does not support the efficacy of multitasking. Your brain has to switch from one task to another and that switch takes time and effort. In essence, it takes more time to complete two tasks if you switch back and forth between them than if you set time aside to complete the one and then the other.

It can be really tempting to push through your day without breaks. Research does not support this approach. Your brain needs breaks in order to stay engaged and on task. It can be helpful to simply stand and stretch every 30 minutes to reengage your brain. This should be combined with 10 minutes of exercise every two hours, like a brisk walk. Build the breaks into your schedule so it does not feel like you are taking time away from anything else.

If you are in the habit of jumping from one crisis to the next, it can seem impossible to get ahead. You may also want to do some reflection whether you enjoy the adrenaline rush of jumping from one crisis to the next rather than sitting down and focusing on a more mundane or cumbersome part of your work. The reality is, if you are more planful and take control over the little things, you will be able to carve out blocks of time for projects that you feel passionate about and offset the tasks that deplete you. At the end of each week, take time to plan out your upcoming week. This will give you a rough idea of the time you have available for urgent and important projects.

Also, instead of just jumping in, take time at the beginning of each day to review priorities and rearrange as needed. Design your day so your most demanding task is scheduled during a time when you tend to function more optimally. Everyone’s energy flow is a bit different. If you are visual, it might help to develop a color-coding system so you know what blocks are nonnegotiable versus where you might have some wiggle room. Also, block time at the end of your day to reflect on what you have accomplished during the day. This can help you recognize incremental progress rather than speeding ahead in your mind to the huge projects always lying ahead that needs your time and energy.

It can be so easy to get distracted by email, phone and other alerts. Block slots in your day where you respond to email and voicemail, rather than feeling the urge to respond instantly to all requests.

Immediate response may be great for the other person seeking to get their needs met but will prevent you from being very productive. It can be highly beneficial to turn off alerts when you have blocked time to focus on a project and give it your undivided attention.

Where possible, see if you can build routines into your schedule. Routines are great for streamlining and creating efficiency. Also, don’t spend a ton of time creating a really great schedule, just to disregard it all. Of course, flexibility is necessary at times but don’t be too quick to rearrange everything at someone else’s request. People will soon learn that you are nice and accommodating and you will end up helping everyone but yourself. Instead, help others learn they need to give you more notice if they need something from you.

Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, Psy.D., HSPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Bowen Center. You can contact her at Ask.DrLiebetrau@BowenCenter.org.

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