Time management is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress, experts say.
In a study of 56 women in two-earner families, participants joined one of four groups to reduce stress: time management plus social support, time management alone, social support alone and a control group. Most effective at alleviating stress (as measured by the women and their husbands): time management plus social support, then time management alone and finally social support alone.
The study, conducted by psychologist Abby C. King of the Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention, was featured in a recent issue of Behavior Therapy.
Among the advice King offers in time management seminars:
Rank these values in order of importance to you: work, financial security, family relationships, recreational activities, success, health/physical well-being, good friendships, spiritual values, achievement, independence and other.
Now make a list of your specific life goals.
Try to think of activities that can combine both your life values and your life goals. For instance, if you rank "family" high on life values, a high goal might be "to spend more time with the children." Now list several activities that can help you do that, for instance, watching less television or blocking off an evening just for the family. Finally, list a date when you will start those activities.
Keep a daily "to do" list. Rank items according to A, B, C priority system. Look at the B activities. How many are really As? Which ones should really be Cs? Now think about rescheduling your day to get A activities accomplished. Remaining activities can be postponed to another time.
Do things more effectively. For instance, to minimize time spent on phone calls, place the calls either right before lunch or just before the end of the day.
Become less of a perfectionist by exploring self-defeating and unrealistic beliefs. Such beliefs, she says, can be stressful. Ask yourself, "What will happen if I don't do this to perfection?" "Are my fears justified?"
Learn how to say no. First let the person know that you understand their situation. Say no in a direct manner. Offer explanations or alternatives.
Take time to relax. After work, to reduce preoccupation with undone tasks, organize a list of specific things that you didn't get done today, and plan time for them during the rest of the week.
Try not to fixate on half-completed projects, which can be draining. Instead, divide large tasks into parts and reward yourself for the parts completed.