If you often feel like you’re working hard but not getting anything done, or overwhelmed by the challenge of fitting everything into one day, it may be time to rethink how you work.

Though they sound small, tweaking your approach to things like what you do for lunch or how to deal with a relentless inbox, can actually reap huge rewards.

From helping you leave on time every day, to coming home feeling happier each evening, here are six simple rituals to slash work stress and boost your productivity.

Plan your day

A lot of time can be wasted jumping between tasks and deciding what to next. To streamline your day and boost productivity, write yourself a plan or to-do list at the start of each day, and stick to it as best you can. Careers coach Anita Attridge suggests: “Determine your peak working time and plan your schedule accordingly. Use your peak time each morning to do the most important tasks.” Attridge also advises allocating yourself time slots to complete certain tasks, and focusing on them one at a time.

Leave on time

When you’ve got a heavy workload on the go, it can be tempting to stay at your desk ‘just a little longer’ each day. Studies have shown however, that not only will the habit make you feel tired and less productive, it can also have severe health consequences as a result of the added stress. So no matter what gets thrown at you during the day, make leaving on a time a hard and fast rule. If you know you’ll be out of the door at 6pm, you’re more likely to power through and get things done.

Find a coffee alternative

While a rich brew might help you get going first thing, drinking coffee throughout the work day can be a slippery slope. Studies have shown that the hit of caffeine can trigger the release of stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines, while also causing a blood sugar spike. So while you’ll certainly get that instant buzz, it’ll likely be followed by an energy slump as your insulin levels crash back down, and feelings of anxiety. Break out of the cycle by swapping coffee for herbal tea blends, or snack on fruit and nuts for an energy lift.

Bring a packed lunch

While it can take a little getting used to, preparing your own meals to take to work will avoid any lunch break panic buying, and help you stick to a healthy eating regime. If you plan your packed lunches wisely, you can avoid mid-afternoon sugar slumps by eating slow energy release foods, and save a packet while you’re at it.

Join a lunch-break fitness class

Not only does getting your exercise in at lunchtime avoid the whole issue of getting home, sitting down, and then rapidly abandoning all pre-made plans of hitting a spin class; it can also make you more productive. A Leeds Metropolitan University study revealed that employees who exercised during normal daytime hours (i.e on their lunch break) returned to their desks feeling happier, more positive and reported a higher rate of productivity too, compared with the days on which they didn’t exercise.

Impose an email ban

Though they’re vital for communication, emails are often the biggest distraction when it comes to buckling down and getting on with actual work. The answer, say time management experts, is to self-impose email bans during certain times of the day. “If email interruptions are impacting your work, set aside 30 minutes between two and five times a day to devote to emails,” says Dr Emma Russell, occupational psychologist at Kingston University. “Stick to that routine, and turn off notifications otherwise.”

By Amy Lewis, as published in Stylist Magazine, February 2016

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