Stress-busting tips to help you focus on your workload

Are you overwhelmed by your workload? If so, Jane Sparrow has some advice.

Most of us know what it is like to feel overwhelmed by our workloads.

According to a recent global survey of 1,600 companies*, UK workers are experiencing increased levels of stress and longer working hours than ever before, with a third of those surveyed describing the pressure as ‘excessive’. What’s more, it is a trend that 57% of businesses believe is set to continue for the next three years.

Learning how to manage yourself and your workload is all part of what makes us professional and reliable in our jobs. There are all sorts of techniques that help – one of the big areas to crack is giving focus to one thing at a time and really learning the art of concentration. One of the biggest issues is that people don’t plan to concentrate. That’s half the challenge. There is so much to do that we often just jump from one task and priority to the next but we don’t create the intentionality and space for concentration.


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If you’re reading this thinking, ‘How can I concentrate when my client constantly harasses me to see where my report is?’ Read on.

Although it might feel that the situation is out of our control (a fixed deadline, for example, that cannot be changed), there are small but simple things we can do to help gain a sense of control and be more intentional about what we need to achieve.

Clear away anything that will distract you: Busy people have busy desks and working spaces (whether that’s the kitchen or the desk in your corporate office). Clear anything that will distract you – phones, reports, Facebook, an unpaid bill that is nagging at you. A clear space helps concentration and removes anxiety.

Tell people you are concentrating: How often do you hear people say ‘I’m concentrating’ It’s rare we are that overt, partly because we are too busy juggling and partly because we don’t want to offend others or make ourselves unavailable in case we miss something. This is even more of a problem when we are always connected via Facebook and Twitter. Say ‘I’m concentrating for the next hour, I’ll then be all yours’ and people will often respect that.

Set a timescale for your task: If you’re trying to concentrate, set yourself a time. No longer than an hour because you’ll be fidgeting by then! It could be 15 minutes, even, but set yourself a time so you know that’s the dedicated time to think/do the task in hand.

If concentration isn’t working – don’t force it: Have the courage to walk away from thinking/doing if it’s not working for you. Make a cup of tea, go outside for some fresh air or walk over to a colleague for a quick chat. Then come back and try again with a fresh set of eyes. You’ll just waste time if you carry on, the frustration and anxiety sets in and the task will not be completed!

*Towers Perrin Research, Global Talent Management and Rewards Study, Sep 2012

*Jane Sparrow runs a management and leadership consultancy and will be writing regularly for Check out Jane's blog here – it has tips and advice for managers and her website has tools, including video footage of leadership role models. For further tips and ideas go to© Northern Flight UK Ltd – 2012.

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