We’re all familiar with “normal” causes of work stress: a hard-to-please boss, impending deadlines, challenging group projects, and so on. However, it’s also important to remain aware of the less-blatant stressors lurking around your office and around your working life.
These smaller sources of mental tension often don’t seem like a big deal individually, but they can quickly add up and derail your productivity and your overall happiness at work. And the truth of the matter is that these stressful situations frequently occur as a result of your own actions and choices. Read on for seven common examples of seemingly harmless work decisions that can sap your energy and deplete both your effectiveness and your contentment throughout the week.
1. Deciding what to wear
This seems like the most minor of all work decisions: picking out something to wear to the office. However, depending on the expectations of your workplace and your industry, your sartorial choices can have a distinct effect on your career and can therefore inspire stress. In order to reduce outfit-picking tailspins in the morning, take some time the night before to browse your closet and select an ensemble that makes you feel confident, capable, and polished. Arranging your closet so that all workplace garments occupy the same space also helps with this pursuit.
2. Formulating meal plans for the week
We’ve all been there: on a particularly hectic workday, you forget to pack a nutritious lunch and instead find yourself parked at the breakroom vending machine or at a nearby fast food joint or convenience store, walking away with a lunch that’s not satisfying and doesn’t properly fuel you. A bit of advance planning can do away with these concerns; making a large quantity of a meal you love during a quiet evening and dividing it into individual servings to quickly tuck into your work bag in the morning is an easy, low-fuss workaround.
3. Putting off undesirable or difficult work tasks
The impulse to start your day with “the easy stuff” and put off tough assignments for later is certainly understandable...but because most workers reach the peak of their alertness and motivation in the earlier parts of the workday, it makes more sense to start with the more challenging items on your agenda. That way, the hardest part of your day can end early, freeing up mental space for the afternoon and for any post-work plans.
4. Multitasking to an unproductive degree
In many industries, the ability to juggle multiple assignments at a time is rightfully considered a positive attribute. However, the effectiveness of multitasking versus focusing on one task at a time can shift at any time, and if you’re tackling an especially high-priority project, then you’ll likely have more success if you rearrange the other items on your to-do list and give the most crucial assignment your full attention for a specified period of time.
5. Allowing your workspace to become chaotic
Some people prefer a desk or an office that’s perfectly arranged and free of clutter...while others seem to thrive in a messy environment with papers and tchotchkes strewn everywhere. Even if you fall into the latter camp, at a certain point, a visibly-chaotic workspace can cause under-the-radar stress, both to the person occupying that desk and to colleagues who have to witness the anarchy en route to the bathroom or a conference area. Taking even minor steps to streamline your work area and keep the mess to a minimum will likely improve your efficiency (since you don’t have to spend time searching for documents or digging presentation notes out of an unkempt pile) and will also influence how you’re perceived by coworkers (typically for the better).
6. Keeping your work phone in your bedroom
These days, we all keep our smartphones by our sides whenever possible. But if you receive work-related messages on that device, giving it a prime spot on your nightstand as you ready yourself for sleep can keep your workday stresses at the top of your mind while you’re trying to wind down and relax. If it’s possible to put your work phone in a different room (or, at least, in an area that’s not directly beside your sleeping space), then that can help you separate “down time” from “work time” and achieve a stronger work-life balance.
7. Coming up with weekend itineraries
We all cherish weekends for excellent reasons; they give us the time and space to explore activities and hobbies unrelated to work, and they offer us the opportunity to connect with friends and family. However, if you’re constantly the person in charge of scheduling weekend brunches and assembling get-together plans, those responsibilities can pile up, resulting in undue stress. Try to spread out the obligations among your social circle, which will allow you the opportunity to sit back and enjoy spending time with your loved ones.