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Trim Your Overworked Day

Trim Your Overworked Day

By Denise Kersten,

Americans work more hours than anyone in the world, and the workload is taking its toll. Forty% of workers say their job is “very or extremely stressful,” according to a study by insurance firm Northwestern National Life. But many of us work more hours than we need to.

“Very few managers use their time as effectively as they could,” a study published in the Harvard Business Review in February says. “They think they’re attending to pressing matters, but they’re really just spinning their wheels.”

The study found that 90% of managers fritter away time on unimportant tasks because of inadequate focus or energy. The problem drains non-managers as well.

“A lot of people confuse being busy with being effective or taking action,” says Sumantra Ghoshal, a professor at the London Business School and co-author of the study.

Instead of working harder or longer, strive to work smarter. Follow these time-saving tips to maximize your focus and energy:

Recognize your rhythms.

“Schedule your daily tasks around the highs and lows of your own rhythms,” says JoAnn Dahlkoetter, a Stanford University psychologist and author of Your Performing Edge.

Determine when your energy and focus peak, and put that time to good use. If you’re a morning person who slows down around 3 p.m., finish your most difficult work as early as possible.

Also factor in your surroundings and potential distractions. If co-workers congregate at 9 a.m. to debate last night’s television shows, use that time for low-concentration tasks.

When you start to lose concentration, take steps to get back on track.

Take a short walk or work on something else. Also try a high-protein snack and regular exercise, says Dahlkoetter, who won the San Francisco marathon and placed second in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

“Knowing when to stop a project is as important as knowing when to start one,” Dahlkoetter says. “Everyone has a different task toleration level.”

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