Stress Management For Dummies
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Here are a few strategies to help you manage your time more efficiently and effectively, and reduce your time-related stress. The first step in this process is to become aware of your current use of time.

Have you noticed how quickly your days fill up? You often find yourself hurried, harried, and rushing to do all that you feel has to be done. Putting out fires, dealing with last-minute crises, and taking care of unending details leave little spare time for anything else.

Add to that a busy job, a family, and at least a few other obligations, and you notice that your stress level is escalating. And something else is happening: You have less and less time to spend on the things that you really enjoy and that bring you satisfaction. Fortunately, managing your time more effectively is something you can master.

Effective time management is really all about managing your priorities. The trick is figuring out what those priorities are and making time for them to happen. Remember those wise words of English logician and philosopher Bertrand Russell: "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

Reduce stress with a time log

For a short period of time, perhaps a day or two, keep a simple time log. A sheet of paper will do or, if you're more comfortable with your electronic device, use that. At convenient times during your day, enter what you did, or are doing, in the appropriate time slots. Don't become compulsive about this; you don't have to make it exact to the minute.

However, be sure to record your electronic time usage — those times when you checked your e-mail, made or received a phone call, texted or IM-ed, visited social-networking sites, or surfed the Net. A sampling of a day or two should supply enough data to give you a rough picture of how you use — or misuse — your time. Use this simple rating code:

1 = Great use of my time
2 = Okay use of my time
3 = So-so use of my time
W = Waste of my time

Also add some comments that reflect how you feel about the way you used that time.

Use time wisely and relieve stress

As an exercise, grab a sheet of paper and jot down activities that you would like to spend more time doing. This exercise helps you get in touch with those activities that you value and derive satisfaction from.

The following is a sample of general items you may want to consider. (You can, of course, add others.)

  • Spending time with your family and friends

  • Advancing your job or career

  • Pursuing a hobby or interest

  • Reading

  • Exercising

  • Nurturing your soul

  • Volunteering for community activities

  • Traveling

  • Sleeping

What you want to spend less time doing

Knowing what you want to spend more time doing is only half the battle. Knowing what you don't want to spend time doing is just as important. Here are some things you might wish you spent less time doing. Make a list of your own.

  • Working late at night and on weekends

  • Doing office paperwork

  • Attending events I don't enjoy

  • Cleaning the house

  • Doing laundry

  • Spending time with people I don't enjoy

  • Surfing the Web

  • Watching so much television

Your goal is to fill your life with more of the things you want to do — things that bring more meaning and joy to your life. This means knowing how to minimize time spent doing the things you have to do.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Allen Elkin, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the director of The Stress Management & Counseling Center in New York City. Nationally known for his expertise in the field of stress and emotional disorders, he has appeared frequently on Today, Good Morning America, and Good Day New York.

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