Resolve to Organize and Decrease Stress

Originally published: 01.01.09 by Heather Onorati


Through better organization, you will reduce the impact of stress on yourself and your employees, leading to higher productivity for all.

If you’re like most Americans at this time of year, you’ve probably declared your annual resolution. You’re going to lose weight, eat healthier, spend more time with your family, eliminate debt, save money, or reduce stress. According to government statistics, these are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions.

My 2009 resolution is to organize clutter, and thereby reduce stress.

In the spirit of the New Year, our new management book review section (see page 8), and improving my own productivity (and the appearance of my desk), I picked up a book called “One Year to an Organized Work Life” by Regina Leeds.

The introduction opens with a quote from “Alice in Wonderland’s” White Rabbit: “I’m late, I’m late. For a very important date!” The author says this describes the plight of the modern worker: disorganized, late and stressed out.

Validating that claim are surveys indicating that about half of all workers report feeling very stressed on their jobs. Another survey indicates that the amount of time we spend working is increasing while vacation and free-time decrease. According to this survey, Americans increased

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their work week one hour from last year, yet claim to have lost four hours of leisure time.

And, while we’re working more and playing less, still, another survey says we’re wasting hours.

A 2007 survey by salary.com indicated that the average worker wastes nearly two hours out of an 8 1/2 hour day through distractions, such as chatting with coworkers, focusing on personal business, or just surfing the Internet.

Additional interruptions-turned-time wasters like emails and voicemails can sneak into your day and rob you of productivity. These interruptions leave you wasting more time trying to get back on track, thereby adding to your stress.

Work-related stress isn’t something to take lightly. It threatens relationships, it threatens your business and it also threatens your health. It has been linked with heart disease, obesity, anxiety, fatigue, accidents, and depression in a number of studies. Earlier this year, a study looking specifically at the effects of everyday working life stress on heart disease found that work stress does, in fact, raise the risk of heart disease, the world’s leading cause of death.

Interestingly, the Gallup Daily Happiness-Stress Index shows that there appears to be a consistent dip in individuals’ stress levels after a weekend or a holiday.

Work and deadlines are part of our lives. So how can we improve our response to stressors and reduce the impact they have on well being?

The most direct way is to improve the conditions in which we work.

In her book, Leeds examines how to re-organize office space so you can easily find things you need, so you don’t miss deadlines, and so you can maintain your focus amidst invariable distractions.

In a step-by-step manner over the course of a year, Leeds directs readers through small steps to organize and prioritize working space. From her experience as a professional organizer, she leads readers through clearing desks, ending procrastination, organizing files, prioritizing schedules, creating systems for dealing with e-mail and voicemail overload, and more. In this manner, she helps the reader tackle stress through thoughtful organization.

If you’re among those who feel stressed at work, take a look around you. By taking steps to improve orderliness, you will not only reduce your own stress, but that of your employees. Through better work organization, which may include better deadline tracking, more clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and open communication, you can reduce the impact of stress on your entire organization.

You can learn more about making organizational changes that can prevent job stress by downloading a video from the Centers For Disease Control Web site. The Web address is:www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/stress1.html

This year, resolve to decrease stress for yourself and your employees and watch your business thrive.

Heather Onorati is former editor of HVACR Business and now works as a writer and editor in business communications.


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