Four Simple Ways to Reduce Stress and Get More Done

You are working hard but I bet you are wasting time and increasing your stress. And more stress is the last thing you need! 

Here are four simple things that will save time and reduce stress—if you consistently do them. 

Schedule your morning hours for two things: 

1. Time with God in prayer and reading his word. Jesus was very clear: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Jn. 15:4b 

We are reminded in Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” 

If you and I are not spending time with God in prayer and in his word, our labor will ultimately prove to be in vain.

2. Eat your frog the first thing in the morning. Work uninterrupted in the morning on your most important and most challenging projects. Our energy level is highest and our minds the clearest at the beginning of the day.  I recommend the short, easy to read, and practical book, Eat That Frog! Here is a short excerpt: 

Mark Twain once said that “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. 

The second rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn't pay to sit and look at it for very long.

The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex. But the payoff and rewards for completing these tasks efficiently can be tremendous. For this reason, you must adamantly refuse to work on tasks in the bottom 80 percent while you still have tasks in the top 20 percent left to be done. Before you begin work, always ask yourself, “Is this task in the top 20 percent of my activities or in the bottom 80 percent?” 

Rule: Resist the temptation to clear up small things first.

I have arranged my calendar to reflect this commitment. My general calendar looks like this:

Process your emails at designated times and in bulk. Emails can be very distracting and WILL sidetrack you from your most important projects. Manage your email, don’t let email manage you! 

Do not multitask. You can’t and it wastes time. Work on one thing and only one thing at a time. Here is an excerpt from a Psychology Today article that I recommend:

Task switching is "expensive" -- There has been a lot of research on task switching. Here's what we know from the research:

  1. It takes more time to get tasks completed if you switch between them than if you do them one at a time.
  2. You make more errors when you switch than if you do one task at a time.
  3. If the tasks are complex then these time and error penalties increase.
  4. Each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, but if you do a lot of switching in a day it can add up to a loss of 40% of your productivity.

Pre-plan your week before Monday. I typically do this after evening church. I go through my projects and revise priorities and establish due dates. I do this using a wonderful project management tool called Wunderlist. By planning your week you will have more control over your work, you will get more done, and you will reduce your stress. Here is a screen shot of my week in Wunderlist. 

You can increase your effectiveness, get more done, save time, and reduce stress by:

1. Scheduling your morning hours for two things: time with God and your most important projects (your frogs).

2. Process your emails at designated times and in bulk.

3. Not attempting to multitask.

4. Preplanning your week before Monday.