We face a tidal wave of challenges at work. Too much to do and too little time. No matter how much you love your job, there are bound to be days that nothing seems to go your way, and your stress levels hit the stratosphere.
But there are always creative solutions for everyday challenges at work (and the rest of your life, for that matter). Become an expert problem solver with these simple tricks, and enjoy a much smoother work day.
#1 - Email Eating Too Much Of Your Time
The simplest solution? Just stop checking your email. Most of us are guilty of checking multiple times each hour, responding to each new letter as it arrives. That’s a mistake and poor use of your time.
Instead, set up an autoresponder (called Out of Office AutoReply in Gmail, and available on your settings page). Create an email schedule - perhaps once in the morning and again in the afternoon - and only check and respond to emails at those times. Explain this in your auto response, and invite people to call you if it is an emergency or something that requires an immediate answer. You’ll be amazed how much time you save, and as an added bonus, people will think twice about whether they even need to bother you in the first place.
#2 - Losing, Forgetting and Misplacing Files
You likely create, edit, read, share, print, and collect a mountain of files and documents each day, and keeping track of them can be exhausting and time-consuming. What’s worse, paper documents are rather wasteful and hard on the environment.
Instead, save time, money, and hassle by utilizing the cloud. In 2015, there really is no excuse to not be in the cloud. It’s safe, secure, fast, and convenient, with many of the major players (Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and OneDrive) providing tools for document creation, editing, and sharing from directly within the platform itself. You’ll never again forget that important document at home, lose that crucial meeting agenda or have to wait days for everyone to comment on that new proposal. The cloud makes creating, sharing, syncing, and collaborating instantaneous and available at home, at work, on the road, or sitting in your favourite coffee shop. Even better, the cloud is available for free (with paid upgrades if you want more storage and features).
No more paper copies. No more old versions accidentally being printed or sent. No more losing, forgetting, or misplacing. Eliminate it all with a robust cloud solution.
#3 - Difficult Tasks Hanging Over Your Head
There’s always something that you just don’t want to do, be it make a call to a difficult client, read and make comments on the new 50-page budget, or finish the report your boss wanted yesterday. You might have a legitimate reason for avoiding it, and you might not. It doesn’t matter...it hangs over your head and ruins your day or week, or month.
Instead, move it to the top of your to-do list. Eat that frog. Put the most difficult, challenging, uninteresting, unwanted task first. Start it, do it, finish it, and enjoy the rest of your day. Everything else will be better, easier, more attractive by comparison, and you’ll feel fantastic about yourself and your productivity because you completed something that you didn’t really want to do. Create, stick to, and complete a to-do list every day, and ALWAYS put the “worst” task in the top slot.
How stressful can the rest of your work day be when you’ve already finished the worst part? We instinctively push those tasks back, but it’s the worst way to handle it. Eat that frog and move on to better things.
#4 - Feeling Sluggish and Unmotivated in the Afternoon
We’ve all been there. Sometime around 1:00, our energy and ambition just plummet through the floor. We eat the wrong kind of food at lunch, leaving us sluggish and lethargic. We just know that we won’t get much done for the rest of the day.
Instead, eat the right kind of lunch, and (ideally) get outside, even if only for 5 minutes. Your workday lunch should include plenty of whole grains (bread or pasta), fish, nuts, beans, and couscous, among other things. Fuel your body the right way with these foods that are slow releasing sources of energy, and leave you feeling sated but not stuffed (and therefore prone to skip that junk food snack later). If you can get outside for at least five minutes, even better. The fresh air and sunshine help to naturally recharge your batteries. If that’s not possible, at least get away from your desk during your lunch hour. You need stretch your legs, get your blood flowing, and take a mental break from all things work-related...and you just can’t do that sitting at your desk. You should take a desk break every hour or so (try the Pomodoro technique to help with that).
#5 - Feeling Overwhelmed
There’s a lot to do each day, at work and home. Very quickly, you can feel completely overwhelmed, and that’s a surefire way to become stressed and unproductive (likely pushing those tricky tasks back later and later). In our efforts to get ahead and be noticed, many of us bite off too much at any one time. Things begin to pile up and negatively affect our work at all levels.
Instead, and this takes some getting used to for most people, start saying “no”. There is nothing wrong - and is in fact the expert solution most mentioned - with saying “no” when you know you can’t adequately do something. In fact, you should be saying “no” in those situations all the time, as you’ll undoubtedly slow down everyone and everything else. Learning to say “no” takes time (we are conditioned to believe that it reflects badly on our work ethic), but is best for our mental, emotional, physical, and professional health. Say “no” when you already have too much going on, or at least say “no, but…” and perhaps mention a few stipulations about when you might be able to take it on or contribute.
Finally, adhere to the 2-minute rule to consistently remove items from your plate. If something can be finished in 2-minutes or less, do it immediately. Done.
Expert solutions to everyday work challenges exist, and there’s no reason for you to reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of the collective wisdom and experience of the people out there in the trenches with you. Get more done, feel better, and move ahead.