Recently, we wrote about the mental health upsides of taking regular breaks. We considered everything from taking an hourly break from your work tasks to taking regular vacations to relax and recharge. We made the case that these breaks actually support increased productivity rather than detracting from it.
That concept is time management.
Why Good Time Management is a Must
The word “management” does not necessarily inspire feelings of joy or an expectation of a good time. We understand that you might read that word and think to yourself, “Yeah, I’m just managing to get by! Who has time to manage their time?”
We assure you that you do, in fact, have time to manage your time—and that doing so has real advantages in terms of stress reduction.
The stress-reducing value of time management mirrors that of keeping your workspace and home as free of clutter as possible. Decluttering is a great strategy for reducing stress for a variety of reasons we explored here. Among the ways keeping things tidy reduces stress is that it prevents us from rushing around looking for something—our keys, our phone, the water bill, etc.—and getting more and more anxious as the search fails to turn up what we need.
You could think of time management as a way to tidy up your calendar—and you can start with one aspect of your workday and still see good results. For example, you might decide to reconsider the ways in which you interact with emails each day. In some professions, it can seem like answering email is the entirety of the job. And because emails arrive all of the time, they can be horribly distracting and pull your focus from whatever you were working on.
As a result, some time management experts suggest you find more strategic ways to deal with email—including setting aside specific times to engage with it. Here’s a useful example of that kind of advice. (We should note, however, that we are not sure we agree that you should check your email when you are commuting on public transportation; we might suggest a bit of mindfulness practice or another relaxing activity like listening to music—or both.)
The key point here is that you can be more intentional about how you use your time each day. And whether you make just a few adjustments or jump into an aggressive approach to time management, the benefits to your mental health can be significant.
Maintaining Some Flexibility is Important
Here’s an important thing to remember about time management strategies: They won’t hold up all of the time. A surprise project may land on your desk. You might be out sick for a couple of days (and we strongly encourage you to stay home if you are feeling sick) and then have to scramble a bit to catch up. And some activities simply might take longer than you have budgeted for in your schedule.
While those kinds of things can feel frustrating, they are also a good reminder that your time management strategy is meant to help you—not to stress you out. So when your plans get upended for one reason or another, your best move is to go with the flow as best you can. You can reinstate your approach to time management when things are back to normal.
That said, we also want to encourage you to set boundaries to avoid burnout. For example, it can be helpful to have honest conversations with your boss and coworkers if you are feeling overwhelmed at work. Finding ways to help everyone manage their time and resources effectively is a great way to improve a whole team’s productivity—while also lowering stress in the workplace.
The Time is Right to Get Support for Your Mental Health
Have you been putting off talking to someone about a mental health issue? Maybe it feels like you just don’t have time to deal with depression or anxiety or the last impact of past traumas, so you just keep trying to muddle through.
We would encourage you to try a different approach. At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we offer personalized care for a whole range of mental health disorders. We can help you start to feel better and provide you with strategies and resources so that you see continued improvement in your mental health over time. Better mental health improves every aspect of your life. So don’t wait. The time to get the support you need is right now.