Benjamin Franklin's famous quote is a stark reminder of how finite our time is. We have to manage every second to get the most out of it. Yet, regardless of which part of the world you live in, you'll find that people struggle with one common problem: stress.
We all suffer from stress brought on by trying to meet deadlines while keeping up with our other responsibilities and yet, we never seem to get things done. Across the world, most of us wear one or more of these hats: a parent, a spouse, or an employee. Struggling to balance these roles takes a toll on most people - add the blessing (or curse) that is technology and you can begin to see why people are constantly stressed. It seems like no sooner have you reached inbox-zero and you suddenly have to put out yet another fire.
These days, people even believe that if they can somehow, go "faster", they will be able to get ahead of any stressful situations. Others try to manage their time more effectively by adding a few extra hours to their workday, at the expense of sleep. However, neither of these is a good solution, and pushing yourself to your limits will only put you further down the path to burnout.
Many people believe that the importance you give time management in your life dictates the quality of your life. If you think that sounds a bit of a cliche, consider this: around a quarter of working-class Brits sleep only five hours each night! This was the result of a 2015 study carried out by researchers at the University of Leeds. Health problems associated with such poor sleeping habits include increased risk of anxiety, depression and heart disease.
But do we really need doctors to remind us that we need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep? By learning how to better manage your time, you can easily create better sleep habits, curb your stress levels and get off the path to burnout.
In this article, we're going to give you some background information about stress and some ways effective time management can help you reduce your stress levels.
The Background to StressStress is often defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Our inherent "fight or flight" response is severely constrained in modern society -- especially at work -- where we can do neither. You cannot strike your boss if s/he is too demanding, nor can you run away (at least, not if you want to fit in...). So a response which would take a fraction of a second in the wild is suppressed. But it doesn't go away: it sticks in your mind and often stays there. This can lead to headaches, general indecision, even sleep disorders.
We can also define stress in any situation as the body's natural reaction to uncertainty, so the first step to removing stress is to establish where it comes from. Of relevance to this article is that anyone will experience stress when they feel as if things are out of control in their life. Work is no exception, so if it seems that there is always too much to do and it's hard to get organised, it's time to assess the situation.
How Effective Time Management Can Help You
You can stop worrying about your progressBy creating a clear plan for your work and a timeline with important milestones, you'll minimise the effects of stress that come with working on your projects. Yes, there will be ups and downs on the path to completion, but with milestones in place, you can check your progress against them. Your ability to monitor your progress means you will stay much calmer throughout the project's course. Being able to do your work at a steady pace rather than rushing through will also increase your confidence in your abilities.
It allows you to get enough restWhen you manage your time properly, you won't stress over getting enough sleep or taking a day or two off a project to unwind. You can complete your work, enjoy your personal life, and still get a full night's rest every night.
Rather than putting off going to bed at the right time, the scheduling component of time management will allow you to go to sleep at a reasonable time, have enough rest, and sufficient energy to get through the next day.
It helps you avoid feeling overwhelmedWe all know the feeling of staring at a big project, and suddenly our mind goes into fight-or-flight mode. While you may not bolt from your desk, you'll suddenly find a million and one unimportant things to do rather than start on the project.
But while you are working on these tasks, your mind is still on the project. By using time management to chunk and prioritise your tasks, you can dispel any feelings of overwhelm, regardless of the size of the project or task.
It helps you feel more in controlMastering time management skills will allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Knowing you're in control will reduce the amount of unhealthy stress you feel, regardless of what requests, demands and distractions you have to face.
It helps to ensure that you enjoy your life more, as you complete tasks that matter, when they matter. After all, isn't achieving a better quality of life what we all want?
By managing your time well from the onset, you can also reduce common signs of stress, including constant irritability, chronic fatigue, having difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness.
It enables you to be healthierOne of the first things to be sacrificed when people start to feel that they simply don't have enough time, is a good health regime. Whatever physical activity you usually undertake, it does have minimum time requirements that include the activity itself, and preparing for it, and after.
And as you sacrifice the time that you spend on physical activity, so you lose all the health benefits that go along with a regular exercise regime.
By finding the time (and the commitment) to exercise, you're ensuring that you do maintain those health benefits that come with exercise. In addition, it has also been found that cardiovascular exercise does help falling asleep, so you are able to get more and better rest too. And since that has benefits of its own, this then has a compounded effect.
ConclusionFor sure, stress is a common occurrence in today's workplace and, with our ever-increasing workloads, it's no wonder we have become a nation of coffee swillers. But there's still hope and it starts with better organisation of our work and life.
Let's face it, we'll always have a great number of things to do, and there will never be enough time and energy to do them all. But when you learn how to use time management skills to simplify your life, you'll find freedom!