Do you find you never have time to get lunch or you often skip lunch? Is your email box so full that you can’t send out that vital message as you’ve exceeded your quota? Is your partner fed up with your Blackberry/iphone habit; you can’t resist checking your email even at breakfast? Is your gym kit still clean as you’ve not made it to the gym after work as a takeaway and TV is more appealing? Many people I talk to seem to be at breaking point. The knee jerk reaction when you are overloaded is to work harder, start earlier, finish later, skip lunch and cut out chats with friends and colleagues.


Does this make sense? Where will it all end?

You can work hard for a short, intense time but it’s not sustainable. One of the first things to be affected is your health.

So what needs to change?

In the short term

Replace those bad habits with winning behaviours. Think 20 – 10 – 3 – 2 -1.
20 minutes, 10 seconds, 3 things, 2 people, 1 job.

*20.* Make sure you have a *20 minute break* at lunchtime at least 3 times a week. It’s better to start earlier and have a break than work nonstop all day. You’ll find you are not so tired at the end of the day and can cope better.
Ideally include a short, brisk walk outside. Raining or snowing? Use the stairs during the day. Can’t get motivated? Find a trick that works for you. When I started running 5 years ago, I could barely do it for 5 minutes. I kept a “star chart” to motivate me to keep it up. 1 run = 1 red heart sticker on the calendar for that day. I hated to miss my run as my failure stared me in the face. Sad, I know, but it worked!

*10.* Feeling tense or stressed? Take a *10 second* meditation (Thanks “Sue Weston”: for the great tip!). Taking a deep slow breath in, raise your shoulders up as if they could touch your ears, hold briefly then quickly release your breath and drop your shoulders as far as you can. Still too tense? Repeat as often as you need.

*3.* Every evening before you finish work, jot down *3 important things* that you must get done the next day. Your “to do” list may be so long it’s demotivates you. Focus on those 3 things, amongst the other calls on your time. You’ll get them done and start to feel good, not like you’re a loser.

*2.* A problem shared is a problem halved; *2 people* helping each other. Try not to give your work problems to your family. Phone a friend! You need a “moan-buddy” . Find a friend and try this winning formula. Spend 5 minutes *only* moaning about your problem. Your friend has to reflect back what you said (active listening). Then it’s her turn for a 5 minute whinge. You’ll probably both feel much better. You may even have a solution to try out. Promise your friend that you’ll try it. He/she can check if you’ve done it. Time for tough love!

*1.* Delegate *1 important job* to someone else. Your problem job may be someone’s job variety. Could you use a sub contractor?

Time to now focus on….

The Long Term

You know what I’m going to say….

*Plan ahead.* Work out when you have more intense work periods than others so try to spread the work. Can you do some in advance to avoid last minute panics later?

*Learn to say no.* Are you the only person who can do that job? Are you being dumped on? The most efficient, capable and agreeable people get the most work! There’s a way to say No assertively and not antagonise the other person. Learn to negotiate. Give and take means you both give and take, not you give and they take.

*Stop being a perfectionist* Not every job has to be 100%. Can you take short cuts? Does it have to be done? Right now?

*Delegate more in advance* With more warning, you are more likely to pass on important tasks to others.

and finally…..

Reward yourself.

We’re so busy focusing on the one task we haven’t done that we ignore the 10 things we have done. You’ll feel better about yourself, be clearer about prioritising and get more done.

Good luck!

Sharon Leighton helps busy managers achieve their goals in work and life.