Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all of your work done? Is your to-do list as long as your arm?

If so, you’re not alone! The University of Cambridge highlights factors such as unrealistic deadlines and unmanageable workloads as some of the key causes of work-related stress.

But commentators agree that the key to success is not about squeezing as many tasks into one day as possible – it’s about simplifying how you work to relieve stress and ultimately, help you produce better work. Here are five simple ways you can work smarter…not harder:

1. Take regular breaks

Research shows our brains are only able to remain focused for 90 minutes at a time, after which we need at least 15 minutes of rest. Whilst you may not be able to take such frequent breaks when at work, getting away from your desk to stretch your legs and make a drink could help towards allowing your mind and body to renew itself, meaning you always work when you’re at your most alert and effective.

2. Don’t multitask

If you pride yourself in your ability to multitask, perhaps it’s time to think again. Many people may think that they are able to focus on a few tasks all at once, but if these tasks require any amount of focus, it is likely that the outcome will be a poor standard of work. Don’t forget, if you multitask, you’re more likely to make mistakes which can lead to a lot of wasted time and stress. People who are very efficient focus on one task at a time with limited distractions, as this leads to a higher quality of work achieved in a shorter amount of time.

3. Spend time with nature

If you are lucky enough to work near a park, canal or the open countryside, try and spend time in these sorts of spaces on your lunch break. In Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence, he highlights a study which found that navigating a busy street requires a high attention span, meaning that your brain is not able to relax and your focus level cannot reset itself. In contrast, spending time with nature helps reset your attention span and relax your mind.

4. Plan, plan, then plan some more

People who are very efficient in the workplace always have a strong plan which outlines how they will tackle a project before they actually begin. If you consider factors such as the potential problems that you could face and who is responsible for what in a project, everyone in your team will be clearer on what needs to be done by when, minimising stress and wasted time. It’s worth carrying this planning ‘mantra’ through to how you structure your day-to-day workload – perhaps spend an hour every Monday morning working out what needs to be done and when, then highlight the most urgent items.

5. Stay positive

Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude, as not only can this earn you respect amongst your colleagues, it can also make you a more effective worker. Whenever you have a negative thought, take note of it then turn the situation on its head and think about what would happen if you looked at it in a more positive light. Chances are, the problem has a simple solution and it wasn’t worth all of the worry and negative energy!

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