How to Get More Done with (a Lot) Less Stress: 12 Daily Habits

How to Get More Done with (a Lot) Less Stress: 12 Daily Habits

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Albert Einstein

“Think simple” as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

The daily work we do – in school, at work or in a business – can easily become overwhelming, ineffective and suck the energy and joy out of what you are doing.

So how can you work in a lighter, simpler way that helps you to get more of what truly matters done in less time and with less stress?

Let me share 12 habits that I've discovered over the years that help me to do just that.

1. Prepare your day the evening before.

Pack your bag or suitcase. Pack the leftovers from your dinner in a container and put it in the fridge. Put your keys, wallet etc. in a place where you can easily find them as you head out.

This preparation will help you to have a less stressful morning.

2. Be 5-10 minutes early for appointments.

This will make your time of travel during the day into a time of relaxation and recharging. Instead of a time of stress and anxiety.

Plus, people tend to like when other people are on time.

3. Work on just one thing at a time.

It will be easier to focus and to do a good job.

And to do it in less time compared to if you try to multi-task (at least if you are anything like me).

4. Work in a cone of silence.

Just before you start working on that one thing shut down your email program and instant messaging programs.

Shut the door to your office. Put your cell phone in silent mode and put it in a drawer.

If possible, shut down your internet connection. Or use an extension for your browser like StayFocusd.

5. During your day regularly ask yourself questions for simplicity and focus.

It is easy to get off track during a regular workday.

To stay on track or to get back there if you get lost use questions like:

  • What is the most important thing I can do right now?
  • Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal?
  • Am I keeping things extremely simple right now?

6. Let your lunch time be a time of relaxing.

Eat slowly. Put down the fork between bites to make that easier. Eat mindfully and savor each bite.

Eating your lunch this way can help you to relax and to release quite a bit of stress in the middle of your workday.

Plus, it can help you to not overeat because it takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you are full. By slowing down your eating your brain can stop you before you eat too much.

7. Spend 80% of your time focusing on a solution.

And only 20% of your time on dwelling on your issue, challenge or problem. Instead of doing it the other way around.

This makes it easier to live a lighter and more action-filled life and to not fall down into a pit of self-pity or get stuck in a mental habit of perceived powerlessness.

8. Ask for help.

You don’t have to always go it alone. You can ask for help.

You may not always get it but you might also be surprised at how helpful and kind people can be in helping you ease your burdens and solve a challenge.

Just don’t forget to do the same for them as best you can when they ask.

9. Just check your email once a day.

Checking email or social media accounts many times a day tends to drain a lot of time, energy and can leave you unfocused and stressed.

Try checking and processing all of those things just once a day instead. I do it at the end of my workday.

If that is not possible for you then try to postpone it for a few hours at least. And put your morning energy and focus into your most important task of the day.

10. Write shorter emails.

Limit your emails to 1-5 sentences when possible. You can also have some canned responses for common questions saved in a folder in your email program.

This will help you to spend less time and energy on your daily email processing.

11. Consciously set and maintain firm boundaries between your work and personal time.

Have a set stop time for your daily work (mine is 7 o' clock). Don't work on weekends.

Consciously manage your boundaries and you’ll have less stress and more energy and focus both to do better work and to have a personal life of higher quality.

This is one of the most important and often overlooked habits in this article.

12. Be smart about the 3 fundamentals of energy.

By that I mean getting enough sleep, exercising a couple of times a week and eating healthy.

This may seem very obvious in theory. But in practice it makes a world of difference for your optimism and self-talk, energy levels, ability to handle stress and to think clearly.


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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

91 comments… add one
  • Hello Henrik, Thank you for this great article.
    My favourites are;
    Prepare my day the evening before, including what to wear and the single most important thing I must do tomorrow
    Be 5-10 minutes early for appointments
    Work on just one thing at a time. The whole multi-tasking idea just doesn’t work. This does not apply to parents with young children for whom multi-tasking is unavoidable.

  • Ginny Redpath

    Thanks for all the practical and helpful hints. You’ve added to my list of staying on focus & organized without force..being gentle is good! I loved the daily “time out”. As a fine wine/well-aged(lol) woman I’ve been there & done that forceful “just do it! as often used the Little Engine that could visualization…I think I can…I thought I could!

  • Daniel

    A comprehensive tool set !!

  • Ron Parker

    The comment about only checking email once a day is so off base. Anyone in a company cannot possibly do that. We have our email programmed to send and receive literally every minute. SO much of what we do at our manufacturing company is the interaction with customers who must have answers, quotations, or other information immediately. Your suggestions are great for someone working from home who might be a writer or editor or something. What about those of us who work for multi-million dollar corporations that go full speed from the time we enter the office till the time we go to bed. Yes, we answer emails and texts after work as well. We call that good customer service and that is why our company is number one in what we do and our employees are well compensated. Love the other tips. Thanks. Especially about arriving early. Always do that, it will set you above the rest.

    • Anonymous

      Just adjust the number to however many times you need.

  • Sandra Crawford-Goodman

    Always good to read your simple yet productive blogs….I appreciate you!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you

  • YES! As a work from home mom, the strict boundary between work and personal is difficult but this was such a good reminder.

  • Nina

    Such good advice to spend 80% of my time focusing on the solution rather than the problem – thank you!

  • Meredith

    Such great, simple, old-school advice with a kind, modern touch!

  • T

    Thank you

  • WOW

    seriously, how well you write and how deeply you inform

  • Anonymous


  • Aman

    Hi Henrik, Greetings..!
    Wonderful Blog, you always make me ponder over small little, tiny things we mostly disregard. I call it ” We tend to Ignore the Obvious”

    Take care, stay safe…

  • Mark Olson

    Tack så mycket, Henrik…jätte bra!

  • Tessa

    Hello Henrik, thank you for you positive blogs. They really do help.
    Common sense cannot be taught.

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