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The problem of overwork

Tag Goulet -- A recent study by AON Consulting found that recognition of work-life balance issues is one of the top five drivers of employee commitment to a company.

As a new crop of college graduates get ready to enter the workforce, here are some signs to watch out for: consistently working late, working through lunch, working through sickness, taking work home, rushing to meet deadlines, expressing frustration, not taking vacations, and so on.

To avoid getting stressed out about these situations (and note, that some may apply to your life as a student), keep these specific tips in mind:

* Spend time working on important tasks. Many of us are tempted to work on easy tasks first so we can enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Time spent on simple tasks can create more stress, because the really important work gets pushed back.

* Start an activity log. Every time you begin and end a new project, make note of the time. Soon, you should be able to spot those little time-wasters that derail you.

* Set daily goals. When scheduling your day, assume that something unexpected will come up. Build in a cushion of time to deal with it.

* Avoid promising when tasks will be completed. If you must commit to a date or time, be conservative. If you consistently underpromise or overdeliver, you will build a great reputation and reduce your stress.

* Always try to meet or exceed expectations, but don't fixate on perfection.

Keep other basics in mind, too. Try your best to eliminate interruptions. Select a time of day when you will return phone calls and e-mails. Otherwise, let your voicemail take messages. You can also create an e-mail auto-reply to let people know their message has been received. If a brief e-mail says you will respond within 24 hours, it may deter someone from repeatedly trying to contact you.

Avoid letting other people's problems become yours. Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work, offers this advice: "If someone throws you the ball, you don't have to catch it." In other words, when someone comes to you with a problem, try limiting your contribution instead of taking on the task yourself.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, just say so. But don't just get flustered--offer some possible solutions. For example, if a major report won't be completed by a particular deadline, perhaps you could do a condensed version instead. The full report could be delivered later.

These techniques may not guarantee the life of leisure envisioned by early futurists, but they can cut down on your stress and make work more manageable and enjoyable.

© 2003

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.