7 Ways You're Making Your Job Harder Than It Has to Be

Oct. 7, 2016

Create success at work by following these time-management tips from the pros.

Peek through any office doorway and you're bound to see harried workers, lightly sheened with sweat and striving to do it all. These multitasking folks seem capable of answering emails and writing reports, while phoning instructions to the nanny and simultaneously saving the world. But if they could stop to actually have a conversation, they’d probably share their anxiety about getting their jobs done in time to offer homework help to their kids.

Recognize yourself here? If so, some simple shifts in thinking may help you streamline your workload, stress level and life. Here are seven ways you're making your job harder and quick fixes to help.

And for more helpful tips, check out Care.com's Guide to Managing Stress.

  1. You've Picked the Wrong Job
    Every company has a corporate culture, encompassing everything from office attire to attitudes about quitting time. Choose a company that jives with your values and style. If you require flexibility and a creative environment, for example, you may be happier working for a public relations agency than a financial management firm.
  2. You're Going It Alone
    Seek a mentor, suggests Andrea Chilcote, CEO of Morningstar Ventures. "You are not a superhero. Asking for guidance from someone with more experience in your field will enhance your skills, knowledge and abilities. Your mentor can also influence your career direction, help you through low points and give advice," she says.
  3. You're Keeping It All in Your Head
    "Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them," says David Allen, founder of the consulting firm David Allen Company. He suggests writing it all down. "People waste time re-thinking things they're not doing anything about. Once it's down on paper, it's out of your head. If you've captured something meaningful to you, loop back around and decide on an action item for what you're going to do about it, rather than just letting it float around in your grey matter."
  4. You're Multitasking
    Multitasking can negatively impact your overall productivity and quality of your work. Creating a time-management system will make you more effective. Set aside periods of time during the day when you'll devote your attention solely to answering email, rather than jumping on the send button the second you get a new message. And make sure you give yourself time to reflect on big-picture items. “People need reflection time,” Allen says. “Take a two-hour window at least once a week to get caught up on the past seven days so you can manage the forest instead of hugging the tree."
  5. You Don't Have Backup Care
    It's understandable that concerns about your kids may invade your consciousness during work. If your regular nanny calls in sick or school is closed, make sure you have backup care in place so that your children are taken care of. This will alleviate some of your work anxiety and let you focus on the job at hand.

    Learn more about your 5 options for backup care.

    It's worth noting that some companies actually provide backup child care as a work benefit, such as through Care.com’s Care@Work program. Check with your HR department to see if your company offers any kind of child care benefits and, if so, how you can get enrolled.

    Choosing the right nanny, day care center or babysitter and having a solid backup plan is a must for managing the work-life juggle.
  6. You're Thinking About Work at Home
    Tempting as it may be, don’t bring your work home with you. "Find a system you are comfortable using where you can park ideas and tasks that you cannot accomplish within two-minutes," Allen says. "If you can’t do it right then, decide what you're going to do with it and write that action down in a place you will absolutely check on periodically. This way, you don't take the next day's work home with you, where it is bound to wake you up at 3:00 a.m. or invade private time with your family."
  7. You're Giving Into Stress
    "Stress is inevitable," says Chilcote. "Identifying your stress switches can help you operate under much less pressure and experience happiness and success on the job. Ask yourself if you are reacting strongly because you feel you have no control. Keep your composure by taking a deep breath and reflecting on the situation, giving yourself a time-out. Remaining unaffected by the circumstances surrounding you is a moment-by-moment choice and key to making tough moments at work pass a little easier."

Not every work day is going to be as smooth as silk. Deadlines are bound to come out of left field, just as the copy machine breaks and the school nurse calls about a lice epidemic. Handling it all with aplomb may not always be easy, but forging good work habits and putting organizational systems in place will help you ace your office life and preserve your energy, sanity and sense of humor.

Corey Whelan is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work can be found here.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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