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Reduce Stress With Time Management

Develop better habits to stay healthy and focused.

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Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done? Do you frequently find yourself behind schedule? Are you often rushing to meetings or appointments? When work piles up and you’re always up against a deadline, it can feel stressful.

Taking steps to manage your time can help. You can start by setting daily routines and making sure you know your responsibilities. A lot of stress can come from not understanding what is expected of you. It helps when you make it clear to yourself and others what you can get done and when. Here are some ideas:

Manage your time

  • Start with a clock, a watch or timer (try your mobile phone's timer). Track just how long certain tasks really take. People tend to overestimate how long it takes to complete a short task and underestimate the time longer projects take.
  • Allow extra time at first to get things done. Rushing tasks can end up taking more time and creating more stress in the long run.
  • If you’re often late, write down appointments 15 minutes earlier than they really are. Use your phone or alarms to set reminders. Have things like keys, a charged phone or computer ready so you’re not in a mad dash to find them when you’re leaving the house.
  • Find the time of the day when you have the most energy. Focus on high-priority or difficult tasks during that period. Doing the harder tasks first gives you a sense of accomplishment to start the day.
  • Take five minutes before you leave work to set priorities for the next day. This way it will be much easier to focus when you get started the next morning.

Set priorities

  • Prioritize your to-do list. Put the most important tasks on top. If they’re complicated, break them into manageable steps. It can be helpful to organize them by priority:
    • High priority items must be done today.
    • Moderate priority can be delayed a day or two without major issues.
    • Low priority tasks that would be good to do, but can be put off to a later date. Just be sure to allow some time each week to catch up on these lower priority tasks. Little issues can sometimes become big problems if they aren’t addressed. And this can lead to stress.
  • Ask for help when you need it. The low priority tasks may be good ones to delegate to another person.
  • Money worries are a big source of stress. If you tend to fall behind on paying bills, set up a reminder one week before they’re due. Or set up auto-payments for recurring bills.
  • Do you have a hard time saying no? It’s not always easy to say no, particularly to a boss. But if you’re overstretched, it’s important to be honest up front. You also have to keep in mind things you need to do outside of work. If you know you have a busy week coming up at home, try not to take on extra tasks at work that week.
  • Plan breaks to refresh your mind and body. You might go for a brisk walk, chat with a friend or play with a pet. Find leisure activities that bring you a sense of peace and relaxation.

Stay positive

  • Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. A strong support system can help you manage stress. Remember that support goes both ways. Helping others can help you feel better about yourself. Just don’t promise more than you can handle.
  • Look for inspirational posters or photos to post at home or at your work, if allowed.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Laugh at yourself. Laughing can actually help your body fight stress in a number of ways.

No matter how busy you think you are, don’t neglect your health. Get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy foods and be active. Try not to use alcohol to cope with stress. There’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine at the end of a long day, but use moderation. One drink per day for women and two drinks for men is a good guideline. Doing these things can help improve your energy, your mood and your overall health — and that can help you make better use of your time.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

Sources Stress management: Simple tips to get stress in check and regain control of your life. Accessed November 30, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Managing stress. Accessed November 30, 2019.
American Heart Association. Fight stress with healthy habits. Accessed November 30, 2019.
American Psychological Association. Where do the hours go? Accessed November 30, 2019.

Last Updated: November 26, 2019