As the pace of life increases, along with our use of technology and 24/7 connectivity, a blurring of the separation of work and personal time takes place, stress increases, and we feel pressured to steal time from health-giving activities such as sleep, exercise and social relationships.
Here are a few things you might do to alleviate any negative consequences of the digital age of speed in which we now must function.
Place boundaries on your working hours.
Make sure your working hours are not the same hours as our family time or personal time. In a recent issue of Scientific American Mind, it was suggested that the single biggest stressor is a failure to unplug from the always-connected workplace.
Build structure into your day.
Most of us are now connected 24/7 and vulnerable to incessant interruptions. Checking and responding to email or messaging a maximum of four or five times a day instead of 40 or 50 times a day. And batch similar tasks together when you perform them. For example make phone calls, write email messages and text in batches to consume less energy and mental fatigue.
Find your “high performance” work area.
Try getting away from your regular work environment for an hour or more each day. I have written in the past about the advantages of working in a coffee shop. The moderate noise level has been found to increase creativity. It also gets you away from an environment that may be triggering bad habits, such as checking email or text messages every few minutes. Many people have what is referred to as a high performance area, which may not necessarily be a coffee shop. So experiment a little.
Exercise at every opportunity.
Exercise, whether morning, noon or night, improves your health as well as your energy level. Simply taking the stairs can increase your energy by 200% for example. Another way of increasing performance might be to use a standing desk for a few hours each day. One pharmaceutical company found that after one month of getting standing desk’s employees were 23% more productive. A sedentary lifestyle, including sitting all day, is a killer.
Make the majority of your goals short range.
For example, set more 90-day goals and fewer annual goals. This allows for an ever-changing environment, the rapid advances in technology, and the instantaneous influence of social media and so on. Priorities also seem to change more quickly in this digital age of speed.
90 days – three months – provides enough time to accomplish something significant, yet not so short as to be seen as a glorified “to do list. Your 90-day goal could very well lead to an annual goal, while having measurable results in itself. But while working on annual goals, we could deceive ourselves into thinking that a last-minute rush will enable us to achieve the goal.
With shorter goals we are able to adjust or even discover that the goal is impossible or impractical and we would still have most of the year available to re-evaluate and reset our goals.
Many goals don’t take 12 months in the first place, and Parkinson’s Law could take place at the time it takes to achieve the goal could expand to fill the time we have available. Many important goals such as product launches or a sales promotion are time sensitive. If you don’t act now you lose much of their benefit. If you can’t make significant progress in 90 days, you probably won’t do much better in 365 days.
Don’t work exclusively from “To Do” lists.
“To do” lists by themselves, are no longer sufficient since we have now more things to do than we can possibly get done in one lifetime. It’s more important than ever to identify the 20% that represent 80% of the value or significant results, and schedule them in our planner – Blocks of time representing appointments with ourselves to get the most important things done – just like we schedule appointments with other people. Also research shows that deciding in advance when you will do something increases your commitment to do it. There is no real commitment to do tasks on a “To Do” list – especially at any particular time – and your brain picks up on that.
Practice holistic time management.
Don’t limit yourself to the traditional “get organized, plan, write things down” suggestions of the past. Our body, mind and relationship with nature and our environment all influence our personal productivity as well as our health and well-being.