Learn to work effectively

Many aspects of your work may be decided by your employer or organization, leaving you with little control over what you do. In situations where this is distressful, stand back and ask yourself whether the demands and pressures are real and reasonable or whether your perceived lack of control is a result of your unrealistic expectations.

Clearly, the physical conditions of your work environment are important, not least from a safety point of view: bad lighting, insufficient heating, poor ventilation, noise, overcrowding, lack of privacy and uncomfortable office furniture are frequent sources of dissatisfaction, frustration and distress. Many employers appreciate that the right physical environment will encourage productivity and creativity, so you should not be hesitant about approaching your employer if you feel these things are causing you distress. There are some changes you can probably make for yourself such as brightening your immediate work area with coloured posters, postcards, photographs, cartoons and plants.

There is much you can do to organize your work. Take short breaks from routine tasks even if it means simply closing your eyes for a few minutes and relaxing. Practise a relaxation technique (such as those described in Chapter 11) at your desk or bench. Arrange your office or surroundings so you have to get up and walk to the filing cabinet or to answer the telephone. When you talk on the telephone concentrate on the task in hand and do not polyphase (do more than one thing at a time). Be assertive, say no when you feel overloaded with work. Seek immediate clarification about what is required when you are asked to do a job. At this stage you should point out any difficulties or problems you foresee and ask for help if necessary. It is always more difficult to do this after the event, though you can always go back and ask again. In the meantime, you may have worried unnecessarily over difficulties and problems.

If you have a lot to do, arrange your jobs in order of priority. It is usually most productive, effective and satisfying to complete one job at a time before moving on to the next.

Do not rush; spend some time thinking about how to tackle problems and plan your course of action. Routine jobs are often best tackled using a strict timetable such as opening mail first thing in the morning. Do not clutter your diary with appointments or make appointments when you know you may not be able or will be pushed to keep them. Leave some time for yourself during the day for relaxation and never miss your lunch and tea breaks. Use them effectively: get out of the work environment, go for a walk or relax and read a novel. Learn to manage your time effectively.

Most people work with others, so you should pay particular attention to giving and receiving support and building selfesteem with respect to your work. Learn the art of good communication and assertiveness. Develop the art of listening -you will not only learn more by listening rather than talking but you will form better relationships – people like to talk and tell you about themselves. Control your voice in discussions; do not become threatening or emotional. You will get your views over better by using clearly stated points in an assertive manner. Do not underestimate the value of good humour.

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