There are peak times in every business. It could be seasonal (the holidays are soon upon us) or even certain times of the month or even week.
It's easy to get caught in an endless work loop where your life turns into desk lunches, late nights, and little, if any, me-time. While you may feel that the more you work, the greater your performance, the opposite is actually true.
To be effective and present in your work during crunch time, you have to eliminate the "busy bee" mentality and take steps to allocate your time better, set up a more supportive environment, and make sure to take care of yourself. This way you can avoid excessive stress and burnout and ensure you do quality work. Here are four tips that can help you get through the busy times.
1. Eliminate electronic distractions.
Distractions can increase your workload and stress levels. The constant ding of e-mail and text notifications and Internet temptations can easily disrupt your focus and concentration.
According to a study by the University of California, Irvine, it can take up to 23 minutes before you're able to refocus on the work at hand before you were interrupted. To start, set up temporary barriers to help keep you focused.
Some web tools that can help are Freedom, a website blocker for your computer and phone, and Inbox Pause, which stops new e-mails from coming into your inbox until later. While the prospect of quieting electronic noise like this may seem daunting at first, it can help maximize your work day and minimize the amount of overtime needed.
2. Build in regular breaks.
It's so easy and tempting to just put your head down and plow away at the task at hand. But this approach isn't productive, and more hours does not equate to more work completed.
To keep your mind and body fresh during the day, build in regular breaks during your day. By taking periodic breaks, you actually get more work done.
But what is the ideal break time? One study from the social networking company the Draugiem Group found that the most productive workers followed the 52 to 17 rule --working for 52 consecutive minutes and then taking a 17-minute break. (This approach is similar to the Pomodoro Method.)
I like to set a timer to remind me when it's break time, and I use those 17 minutes to go for a walk, do some yoga stretches, and even spend time making playlists on Spotify to divert my attention to something else. I always return to my work refreshed and ready to go.
Of course, you can use variations of this formula, but the point is to work during set time periods and to give yourself adequate breaks.
3. Prioritize your day.
Organization is key to effective work, so don't waste your time and energy with menial tasks. Map out your entire day and divide your to-do list into two sections.
The first section are the jobs that need to be completed (I like to also jot down deadline times too in order to keep me on track). The second section are tasks that are less important that you only do once the first section is completed. This way you can stay focused and not let your attention wander.
There are a variety of apps out there to help keep track of your to-do list. Two of my favorites are Evernote and Trello. I also set aside a few minutes before I begin my day to respond to anything time sensitive.
Then, I often won't look at e-mails again until the end of the day or even at night. Trust me, it's rare that something is so important that it can't wait. If someone really needs to get in touch with you, they will.
4. Keep up your health.
Fatigue and stress can take a toll on your health if you are not careful. During busy times, always block time for exercise, and treat it like an important business meeting that you can't miss.
I found that choosing a set time of day can also help, like in the morning before work. If you have trouble staying motivated, sign up for a yoga class or boot camp.
I have found that when you make a commitment like this, you are much more likely to keep it. Plus, group workouts can increase exercise motivation, according to a study in the Journal of Social Sciences.
While having busy times in business is often a sign of good times, you shouldn't let those moments consume your life. You will be a more efficient worker (and healthier one) if you work smarter and pay attention to the parts of your work-life that matter most.