computer vs human
Okay, so it might sound a bit like a scene from the Terminator, but in terms of workplace stress and productivity, this is quite an important issue.
Picture the scene:
You get into the office and automatically turn on the computer. You wait for it to start up or perhaps get a quick cup of tea/coffee while it loads up. You then check your emails. Then, one of 3 things will usually happen.
1. You find yourself fire-fighting and dealing with seemingly “urgent” issues to get them out of the way, while neglecting other “important” issues that are less demanding. If you’re self employed, this probably includes book keeping and tax returns!
2. Alternatively, you might find your mood suddenly drops as you get an irritating email that you really wish you hadn’t. Perhaps someone is criticising you or an idea, or worse, has copied in a host of others and you can feel your day going from bad to worse.
3. Or perhaps there is nothing too bad at all, just the usual handful of newsletters, information, dates for the diary, requests from others etc. But before you know it, an hour (sometimes more!) has passed and you haven’t really done anything yet, or perhaps worse, you have totally forgotten what it is you actually wanted to do!
All of these scenarios are examples of the computer winning! Sitting down at the computer with no real plan or strategy for the day ahead is like walking into your line manager’s office first thing and asking for a list of tasks to do. The control is not with you and this can be stressful and unproductive.
So what’s the solution? We advise taking 20-30 minutes before even turning on your computer to sit and think about your day. Draw up a to-do list, even if it’s just on the back of an envelope. Look at the tasks on the list (one of these tasks might be to check your email), and ask yourself if this is all achievable on the day, bearing in mind there might be other activities waiting for you when you open the mail. If the list is unachievable, you will have to prioritise and reschedule something or delegate.
Then, and only then, is it safe to check your emails! Knowing what you plan to do before downloading your email is an excellent way of taking control of your working time and ensuring important things don’t get left behind.
A second tip is not look at email every 5 minutes or when a new one arrives, but instead set times of the day when you will check. Imagine if your postman rang your doorbell every time a new letter arrived, and called you away from your desk 10-20 times a day! An email arriving does essentially the same thing. It distracts you and breaks your concentration.
For more tips on stress management, visit our website www.craigiepartnership.co.uk. If you would like an appointment with one of our advisors, we can tailor techniques to suit your situation.
Article written by David Craigie, a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and co-founder of the Craigie Partnership.
Edinburgh Career and Coaching Services: www.edinburghcoachingservices.co.ukEdinburgh Psychology Services, CBT/Therapy & Counselling: www.edinburghpsychologyservices.co.uk