How to Relieve Stress By Being Time-Efficient

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

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Do you find yourself stretched between too many tasks and work deadlines? An increasing number of people are reporting difficulty maintaining focus at work (68%). About 73% say they feel significant levels of stress from the amount of daily tasks they are expected to complete.

Developing time management skills can help relieve your work stress. Read on for the tips you need to become more time-efficient.

Plan Ahead

To better manage your time, grab a calendar and start using it! Whether it’s virtual or physical, a calendar will help you track your schedule. Write down your:

  • Work Commitments
  • Classes/Training/Personal Developement Time
  • Meetings
  • Appointments
  • Short (Daily or Weekly) and Long-term Goals (Monthly or Longer)

Develop a habit of writing down all of your to-dos in one place. Writing it all down will ensure better task execution. You can use sticky notes on a board, to-do lists, or task apps.

Find the method that works best for you and that is the easiest and most enjoyable for you to maintain.

The process of writing down tasks, deadlines, appointments, goals, and all the time-consuming parts of your day will help you to recognize where you might be overcommitted and allow you better visualize your priorities.

Write down deadlines and due dates first, then work backwards to determine when you need to get started on each task. You can schedule time to focus on individual tasks or group similar tasks together to remain organized and efficient.

It’s okay if everything doesn’t go according to plan. That’s life! Plan time for unforeseen disputions, delays, or extra tasks so that you give yourself a little wiggle room to allow for flexibility. If something unexpected comes up, you’ll have space for it in your schedule.

Planning ahead can help you feel more in control of the situation, which can help minimize future work stress.


Once you draft your to-do list, start prioritizing.

Prioritizing will help you determine where to spend the bulk of your time and energy. Determine what needs to be done immediately versus what can wait. Remember to leave extra time in your day or week for the unexpected.

You might need to re-prioritize if new, more urgent tasks pop up.

When determining your priorities, group your to-do list into three categories:

  • Urgent
  • Important
  • Low important

Urgent tasks include anything that needs to be done right away to avoid a potential problem. Don’t wait until an important task becomes urgent to get it done. Otherwise, you’ll only add to your work stress.

Important tasks can help you avoid a potential problem in the future. Low priority tasks don’t need to be done right away.

Understanding your priorities can help you set realistic goals, keep stress levels down, and realize that it’s unhealthy (if not impossible) to do everything within a set period of time.

Control Procrastination

You’re more likely to put off a task that feels stressful or unpleasant. However, this will only add to your stress. Learn how to control your procrastination with these tips.

First, remember that it’s best to get started and not worry about the initial quality of your work. You may discover new ideas or iterate an even better deliverable once you get past the feeling of temptation to procrastinate on a task.

Break large tasks into smaller blocks over the span of a few days. Completing these tasks won’t feel as unpleasant if they’re brief.

Create short-term deadlines for yourself. Deadlines can force you to focus and help you recognize the progress you’ve made.

Also, try to avoid perfectionism. Instead, give each task your best effort.

Cut Out Distractions

About 98% of the workforce is interrupted at least three or four times a day. Distractions can cause twice as many errors as usual, affecting work quality. On average, it may take you more than 23 minutes to fully recover your focus after you’re distracted.

Common distractions include:

  • Co-workers
  • Poorly run meetings
  • Hunger
  • Multitasking
  • Stress and anxiety
  • A cluttered workspace
  • Smartphones
  • Sending/receiving emails
  • Social media

Consider disabling notifications that aren’t business related. Texts, social media notifications, and calls can steal time from your schedule.

You can also seek to change your environment if your workspace is becoming a distraction.

Look for ways to actively combat distractions. For example, you can wear headphones if you work in a loud cubicle space. Otherwise, talk to your manager to implement policies and training to minimize distractions.

Say No

Don’t overcommit. It’s okay to say no if you’re already juggling multiple deadlines.

Before accepting a new time commitment, determine if it aligns with your goals and schedule. Accepting too many tasks can add to your work stress and induce feelings of mental exhaustion.

Saying “no” doesn’t mean you’re neglecting responsibilities or being mean. It means you’re taking care of yourself. If you’re unable to say no, try saying, “Can I get back to you later” instead.

Give yourself a moment to review the pros and cons of accepting a new task.

Otherwise, consider asking for help! Turn to a manager or co-worker when your to-do list becomes too demanding.

You can also enroll in stress and time management therapy.

Get Started

Once you decide on the order of task execution, get to it! Don’t procrastinate. It will only lead to unnecessary excess stress. Instead, stick to your schedule and your plan.

Try to break time-extensive tasks down into smaller steps. Add a short break between each step to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Reward yourself for completing large, time-consuming, stressful tasks. Knowing a reward is at the end of the task can make the process more enjoyable.

Consider Self-Care

It’s more difficult to complete tasks if you’re tired and stressed. Take the time to prioritize your self-care with:

  • Breaks
  • Sleep
  • Stress-relief techniques

To relieve stress, consider journaling, practicing meditation, or picking up yoga. Explore different stress-relief techniques to determine what works for you. Therapy can be an added benefit in helping you develop the techniques you need to relieve work stress.

Don’t rely on all-nighters to complete your busy to-do list. Without sleep, you’ll struggle to focus throughout the day. Give yourself permission to re-energize and take breaks.

Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and exercise to boost your daily energy levels. Taking care of your body will ensure your mind is sharp and ready to take on a new day.

Become More Time-Efficient Today

Procrastinating will only add to the work stress you’re experiencing. Use these tips to become more time-efficient. With better time management skills, you can tackle your to-do list with more ease.

Remember, you don’t have to discover stress relief techniques alone. Working with a licensed psychologist could help.

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation today to learn more!

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