While we can’t make tight deadlines or cranky coworkers magically disappear, there are things we can suggest to help you achieve a more serene and less stressful work environment. Some of these tips involve changing your own behavior; others involve physically altering your surroundings. Together, they can make your workplace feel more harmonious, pleasant and peaceful. Shall we begin?
1. Prepare for your day the night before.
Everyone knows that a morning routine helps set the stage for a productive day, but an evening routine is also essential to starting your day right. This could be when you think about your tasks for the next day, so you already know what you’re going to do when you wake up. It might mean selecting your outfit for the next day. Or reading a chapter of that new book about time management that’s on your nightstand.
2. Go minimalist on your desktop.
This may sound simplistic, but clutter is a focus-killer. Everything from the papers on your literal desk to the junk on your computer desktop is vying for your attention. So go a little crazy, and clear everything non-essential away, from papers and knick-knacks to all those post-its stuck to your wall and icons crowding your computer. A clean sweep will clear your head as it clears your workspace. (But do keep a few personal photos or artworks – they’ll inspire you.)
3. Make a shorter to-do list.
It’s impossible to have a relaxed workday if you have too much going on. Instead of an endless list of things you need to do, prioritize your three most important tasks and decide to achieve them each day, organizing the rest of your list the same way for the following days. (Sure, this routine will see a few interruptions, but it’s a sensible, less overwhelming way to start.)
4. Be a better communicator.
Poor communication often causes confusion – and therefore, stress in the office. If those around you aren’t communicating well, ask questions, make suggestions and do whatever else you can to improve the situation. For example, if you’re stressed out by a co-worker who talks on the phone too loudly or a colleague who’s always dropping by to chat, find a way to effectively communicate your frustration or concerns. If they know their actions are causing you stress, they might be willing to make changes.
5. Make your office less distracting.
That means turning off phones, email notifications, instant messaging… anything that will break your focus and make you jump from one thing to another. These interruptions are deadly for your productivity: a University of California study found that it takes about 23 minutes to get back to a task after an unwanted diversion. Planning ahead can help you retain your momentum.
6. Say no more often.
You are not an unlimited resource. You have a certain amount of time, energy, and attention, and how you choose to spend each is critical. Additionally, the more you give, the more people expect you to give, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Remember: whenever you say yes to something, it means you’re saying no to something else. Just be kind when you say no. And, of course, do say yes when you do have both the time and the inclination.
7. Cut back on your commitments.
Opt out of meetings whenever possible. So many of them are unnecessary. Much of the time, the point of a meeting can be made with a well-written email. Cutting out meetings can free up a lot of time and make your workday more relaxed.
8. Take breaks during the day.
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: no matter how busy you are, it’s vital that you get up and move around during the workday. A 15-minute walk – outdoors if possible, or even just around the building – can refresh your thought processes. If you’re stuck on a problem or are having difficulty thinking creatively, getting up and walking around can give you a brand-new perspective.
9. Learn to focus on the present.
Instead of worrying about what you have to do in the future, or reliving things you did in the past, focus on what you’re doing right now. This can be difficult, as our minds have a tendency to wander, but it’s simply a matter of practice. Be aware of where your mind is, and when it drifts to other things, gently bring it back to the present. Mindfulness helps keep you feeling peaceful all day long.
10. Roll with the punches.
There will always be things that go wrong, mistakes that will be made. What’s important is how we react. Instead of letting ourselves become stressed and upset, we need to accept what’s happened, and calmly decide what to do next. Take a step back to get some perspective, and know that in a few days or weeks, none of this will really matter much – and then do what you can to correct the problem and focus on what’s important right now.