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It seems like we hear this more and more: “I’ve been crazy busy!” So, in the interest of getting to “sane busy,” I’m listing here what I think are some of the best work tools and techniques for time and task management:

  1. To-do List Apps: Write down everything you need to do for a particular list, prioritize your list, assign dates, take action, and then cross them off when done. Be sure to prioritize your workload. Work backwards from project due dates to set your deadlines and prioritize your tasks. For more help prioritizing your workload take a look at: http://www.wikihow.com/Prioritize-Projects.

    Here are some apps/websites to try:


    Remember The Milk

    Remember the Milk. Share lists, syncs across computers, tablets, smart phones (iphone & android), google calendar, gmail, outlook and twitter!


    Wunderlist. It has a simple and clean interface, ability to share /email your lists, and syncs with all of my computers and devices. Smart lists and notes here too.


    Toodledo

    Toodledo. A powerful tool when you are looking for robust task manager. Includes hotlists, filters, sorting, scheduling, notes, file attachments, sharing, time tracking, imports lists, alarms, and more. Syncs with multiple devices.


  2. Timers to help you stay on task. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple, effective approach to time management that chunks the work into “pomodoros” (or tomato, in Italian)—25 minute periods of focus—followed by short breaks. This is effective for projects that take a good deal of focused energy to complete. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. A Google search for pomodoro timers or pomodoro technique will yield a lot of results, but here’s one site that’s all about the simple timer: Pomodoro Timer.

    There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

    • After creating your to-dos, decide on the task to be done;
    • Set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes;
    • Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x;
    • Take a short break (3-5 minutes); and
    • Every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
  3. Get(ting) Things Done is a time-management methodology, as described in the book with the same title by productivity consultant David Allen, often referred to simply as GTD. The Getting Things Done method rests on the idea that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally, so the mind is free from the job of remembering the tasks that need to be completed. One can then concentrate on performing the tasks, instead of remembering.

    I read this book in a moment of panic earlier in the semester and it has been a serious stress reducer. It’s full of ideas to help you, well, get things done.

    The David Allen Company lists many tools to help you manage your time more efficiently like TheBrain and EverNote. Richard Winters wrote an article reviewing 3 apps he uses to get things done including the low-tech index/notecard.

     

This semester I had the privilege of presenting the workshop “Building Your Stress Toolbox: Minimizing the Impact of Stress on Your Life & on You.” I held the workshop twice, once for the Womyn@Noon program offered through the Women’s Center and again at the Center for Teaching & Learning.

The presentation was about managing stress to minimize the impact it has on our lives, a topic that affects us all. Stress is all around us, but what is stress? There are many definitions out there, but for this article, I like this definition I found at Mountain State Centers for Independent Living:

“Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength. This class will discuss different causes of stress, how stress affects you, the difference between ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ stress, and some common facts about how stress affects people today.”

Because stress comes from everywhere, we can’t get away from it. My recommendation: Plan for it.

Here is an excerpt from the collection of resources I have collected related to stress management:

Build Resilience

When feeling the effects of stress it is important for us to be able to:

photo of trees and clouds

  1. Recognize the stress and its impact on us. Identify what and how stress affects us.

  2. Reorient the perspective back to “me.” Focus on self-care.

  3. Realize and utilize the resources around to help manage or minimize stress and its impact.

Recognize Stress

There are a few different levels of stress, categorize your stress into: low stress, mid stress and extreme stress to plan for each. Ask yourself the question, “What stresses me?” This helps us to zone-in on the causes of stress in our lives. Make a list for yourself in a journal or a document that you will keep in your stress toolbox.

To mitigate the impact of stress in your life, it is important to recognize the signs of stress in and around you. We each have a variety of ways of responding to our stress. Some ways help us to move through it, while other ways just have us moving in circles and creating additional stress. Writing these out can help us begin to plan what tool to use when we are feeling overwhelmed and it becomes too hard to think.

Reorient the Perspective

So often when stress takes a hold of us, we resist checking in with ourselves and our needs. We just try to “get it all done.” This added distracting inner voice compounds our stress response. Maybe it’s that we are used to taking care of others’ needs first and forget about our own needs. Self-care is critical to success. Having a plan helps us when it is the hardest to see ourselves. Planning helps us to focus on self-care.

Utilize the Resources

It is important to have many different ways to take care of ourselves when stress takes over. Start building your toolbox. This is important to do for ourselves because stress is personal, specific, and individual.