One of the major symptoms of stress in the workplace is the feeling that there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs doing. This feeling can be reduced by organizing time better with the implementation of a few simple systems.

Prioritizing objectives

In order to manage your time better, you must begin with an assessment of your overall objectives in life. What do you want to achieve – a happy balance of work and family life? Are you actively chasing promotion in your present job? Will you settle for a position in middle management, or do you want the chief executive’s office? Once you have decided, work out your long-term priorities, and plan your workload accordingly.

Planning tasks

Divide your workload into three main categories: A, B, and C. Consider any tasks that are both urgent and important as A-tasks, important but slightly less urgent projects as B-tasks, and routine, low-priority jobs as C-tasks. At the end of each working day, plan out what you need to do the next day. Intersperse your important A- and B- tasks with C-tasks, such as filing or background reading, to bring variety into your day and provide relief from the constant pressures of important tasks.

Points to remember

  • Objectives and goals change over time. When they do alter, the priority you give to different tasks must also change.

  • A task list is not static. A sudden crisis at work or home can change it and its priorities.

  • Many meetings are unnecessary.

  • Indecision wastes time, but a hasty wrong decision will cause more stress in the long run.

  • Checking on subordinates in minute detail takes time and will probably demoralize them.

  • Telephone interruptions waste time. Tell callers to ring back.

Allocating time

To make the best use of your time and minimize stress, you need to manage each day carefully. Look at all the tasks you intend to do, and allocate a realistic amount of time to each. When possible, schedule one or more important (category A) tasks in the morning to avoid the pressure of having them in the back of your mind all day. Set out your schedule using a system that works well for you – whether a diary, a computer, or a time planner.

Keeping task lists

Make a list of all the tasks that you have to do. Place them in order of priority, deciding where they rank according to their urgency and their importance.

Recording your day

The time you allocate to a certain task or meeting, and the time you spend actually completing it are not always the same. Mark in your diary how long each task takes and the duration of each meeting (including time spent preparing and travelling). Over a period of time, note any habitual discrepancies and build extra time into future schedules to avoid shunting tasks forwards, causing them to build up.

Relieving stress during travel time

Many of us spend a lot of time travelling between home and work, and for meetings. Travelling can be very stressful – frequent flyers are three times more likely to suffer psychological disorders than most people – so learn a few simple exercises to help you reduce stress while on the move.

Increasing flexibility

Place your fingertips on a bar. Push hard, so that the fingers bend back, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Strengthening wrists

Grip a bar or the top of your steering wheel, and slowly roll your hands backwards and forwards. Repeat 10 times.


Ask a member of your support staff to field calls if you have urgent work.


Try to take a five-minute break from your work every hour or so.


Cross each job off your “to do” list when the job is done. It is satisfying to see a list shrink.

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