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12 little habits that’ll make your working day way less stressful

Storyline:Science & Tech

IN IRELAND, stress is the second-highest cause of illness in the workplace. According to the ESRI, it accounts for 18 per cent of all cases of sickness among workers, second only to physical injury.

By reducing stress during your working day, you’ll not only be more productive, but you’ll reap the rewards in other areas of your life too. While you may not have the time to start your day with a 30-minute meditation session or to fit in a nap on your lunch break, there are plenty of little tricks you can use to get ahead.

Whether your idea of a stress-free day is one where your to-do list is entirely empty or one that’s packed with projects, here are a few ways to ensure your time at work is as anxiety-free as possible….

1. Be ten minutes early

Striving to be early for your working day, rather than simply on time, will have a positive domino effect on your stress levels and productivity. Not only does it build in buffer time for any unexpected delays, but it also gives you a few minutes to set yourself up before distractions start flowing in.

2. Lots on your plate? Try the OHIO trick

If your email inbox is looking worrying full, take a lead from Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, and use the OHIO rule – Only Hold It Once. “If you read the note and know what needs doing, do it right away,” Eric explained to Time Magazine. “Otherwise you are dooming yourself to rereading it, which is 100 per cent wasted time.”

3. Set a task timer

Back in the 1980s, productivity expert Francesco Cirillo devised the Pomodoro technique, inspired by a simple kitchen timer. He believed that our brains work best when focused on single projects for timed bursts – usually 25 minutes or less. Online timers like Tomato Timer are handy for keeping yourself in check.

4. Set clear boundaries for your day

Rather than having late-night writing sessions for Master Of None, Aziz Ansari set a clear end time for each day, and made sure to stick to it. “[W]e would work until 6 or 7 pm, and then we’d be done. You’ve got to be a person and do other stuff, or you’re not going to be inspired to write,” he explained to Fast Company.

5. Use a virtual to-do list

Leave the scraps of paper behind, and streamline your to-do list with an online tool like Momentum or Todoist, which allow you to move, edit and repeat tasks freely. Todoist is particularly handy if you’re on the move a lot, as it can be accessed via your smartphone as well as your desktop.

6. Rest your eyes with the 20/20/20 rule

Staring at a screen all day with no break is one surefire way to send your stress levels skyrocketing. In an ideal world you’d take a short stroll away from your desk every hour or so, but if you can’t manage that, follow the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, rest your eyes by staring at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

7. Keep emails short – or avoid them entirely

Losing time to lengthy email discussions with colleagues? Skip your inbox and chat to them in person instead. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, actively discourages email threads among his employees. “If you want to talk to somebody and you’re a couple floors apart, I kind of want you to get up and go talk to them,” he told the New York Times.

8. Only check your email on a schedule

Constant email pings could be contributing to your workplace anxiety levels without you even realising. If you have desktop or smartphone alerts set up for your email, turn them off or filter them so that only emails sent directly to you get through. Then, restrict yourself to manually checking your email every hour.

9. Clean up your desk (online and offline)

Set aside time at the end of every day or week to do a mini clean-up of your workspaces. On your laptop or desktop, delete unused files and re-organise your folders. On your physical desk, tidy up papers, cups and pesky cables. The result? A clearer working area and a clearer head.

10. Daunting task ahead tomorrow? Leave yourself a cliffhanger

Getting a headstart today on tomorrow’s biggest task can have massive psychological benefits. Work ahead in some small way, be it writing the first paragraph of an email or jotting down a list of ideas. That way, you’ll have already jumped the first hurdle, saving you valuable settling-in time tomorrow.

11. Make your lunch break just that… a break

Eating at your desk while mindlessly scrolling through emails does not constitute a “break,” FYI. Whether your lunchtime is five minutes or an hour, make the time work for you by getting away from your workspace and clearing your head.

12. Disconnect outside of office hours

Yes, in some companies being always-on is part of the culture, but the more time you can spend offline out of work, the better. Deleting social media apps and leaving your phone facedown while out socialising are just two of the tips readers of recently suggested for cutting down on smartphone usage.