Here’s How to Set Yourself Up for a Stress-Free Workday

By Lauren McGoodwin

The workday is notoriously known for being…busy. Urgent emails come flying in at all times, that meeting that was supposed to be 15 mins went over by a lot, and the to-do lists seem to keep getting longer even when you’re crossing things off.

Keeping this all in mind, you might think I’m crazy when I tell you that you it is possible to simplify your work day with a few small tweaks, implementing a routine or two, and even the occasional mindset shift. Here are 5 small things that you can try this week to simplify your workday—and help you feel happier in the process.

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1. Plan your outfit (and meals!) the night before

Starting your day in a rush doesn’t exactly set you up for a calm day ahead. Trying laying out your outfit—from shirt to shoes—the night before and pack your lunch. I’m also a fan of making breakfast so you can really grab and go in the morning. Some ideas include a green smoothie where most of the ingredients are in the blender waiting to go, overnight oats, or even as simple as a couple hard-boiled eggs. By having your lunch packed and ready to go, you’ll also save yourself from waiting in a long lunch line at 12pm.

2. Schedule dedicated email time

One of the best ways to actually reach Inbox Zero status is by carving out some dedicated times to answer emails. I like to spend 45 mins. when I first arrive to work, after lunch, and before I leave for the day. I also have a rule with myself that any email that takes 2 minutes or less to answer, must be answered right away. Emails that require longer or more thoughtful responses can wait for “email time.”

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3. Send meeting agendas and recaps

One of the ways we can really lose track of time or complicate our day is with disorganized meetings. Simplify the process by always sending a meeting agenda to the participants 24 hours in advance and sending a recap email at least 24 hours after. The agenda will help all of you stay on track and it might also help you have fewer follow-up meetings. The recap email is important because it create a paper trail so you can all remember what was said, what action items came out of the meeting, and so on.

4. Create a “power hour” in the afternoon

One of my favorite work routines is having a dedicated “power hour” in the afternoon. A power hour includes you putting up a sign so other employees know not to disturb you or finding a room where you can work without interruptions and you can power through your to-do list. I also like to create a to-do list for the next day during my power hour so I’m ready to go. You can have your power hour at any time in your day but the important part of this rule is no interruptions.

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5. Embrace the word “no”

Something that might sound counterintuitive at work is learning how to say “no.” My best advice is figure out how you can tell someone “no” without every using the word “no.” For example, instead of telling your boss “No, I can’t work on that because I have too much on my plate” try rephrasing it to “That sounds great. I’m currently working on x, y, and z. Which item would you like me to reprioritize and move to next week to start working on this new project?” Remember that your boss is not a mind reader so you’ll need to communicate what your workload is and what you can handle effectively so you can both reach your goals.

What other tips do you use to simplify your workday? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!