Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

How time management can help your physical and mental health at work

The eight hours or more of your workday should be harnessed to ensure optimal and ongoing well-being to avoid burnout.

It is important to take care of your physical and mental health at work and the most important habit to help you do this is to learn effective time management. Learning how to manage your time at work will benefit you in many ways.

Highly successful leaders understand the importance of self-care as a foundation for their effectiveness and well-being and the focus is often on aspects such as healthy eating, adequate sleep and regular exercise.

“However, there is little focus on ‘in-office’ practices that positively contribute to self-care and which compound over time can make a tremendous difference to your quality of life, career success, mental health and fulfilment,” Peter Kriel, general manager at The Independent Institute of Education, says.

“As the end of the year gets closer, most people are tired and the holiday break cannot come soon enough. But 2024 and a fresh year of work is not far behind the break and therefore it is time to think about implementing in-office practices that will ensure you maintain your energy and give your all for your work and personal life in the new year.”

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Physical and mental health

Kriel says while it is important to build habits that support mental and physical wellbeing outside of work, you also have to do that at work.

The most important habit to develop is effective time management, he says. “Effective time management is a critical self-care habit. Successful leaders often use time management techniques, like prioritising tasks, setting boundaries and delegating to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

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Procrastination is the main enemy of good time management practices and ultimately adds to stress levels. Therefore, Kriel says, if you know yourself to be a bit of a procrastinator, resolve to understand what lies beneath your tendency to put things off and deal with it as a gift to yourself in 2024.”

He says other useful habits to maintain agency at work and feel empowered and in control of your life are:

Continual learning and professional development

Learning and personal growth are vital for success. Successful leaders often engage in lifelong learning by reading, attending seminars, taking courses, or seeking mentorship to stay updated and adapt to changing environments.

If you are not on top of developments, the latest technologies and other changing aspects in the business world may not seem like something that would impact self-care, but it does, Kriel says. “You are less likely to feel stuck in a rut and your skills will remain relevant in a highly competitive work environment which reduces stress and concern about job security.”

Regular mental and physical breaks

Taking short breaks during the workday can help recharge the mind and prevent burnout, Kriel says.

“Use these periods of downtime to reflect and refocus. Not deliberately planning and executing these breaks will add to stress levels and loss of productivity, which will ultimately negatively impact self-care.”

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Effective stress management to improve mental health

We all experience stress, but managing it is crucial. Stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing or journaling, will help.

“However, many less obvious techniques will assist in effective stress management in the workplace. Creating a to-do list and prioritising tasks is number one, but then breaking down tasks into manageable chunks can reduce feelings of overwhelm and stress.”

Setting boundaries

While maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal life is essential, there is more to setting boundaries, Kriel says.

“In addition to setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, intra-business boundaries are also crucial. Learn to be assertive by respectfully communicating your needs and boundaries to reduce workplace stressors and say no when necessary to avoid over-commitment.”

Reflection and goal setting

Regular self-reflection and personal goal setting help us stay focused on long-term objectives and ensure we are aligned with our values and priorities. The opposite of this is being swept up by the business of each day, which quickly leads to feelings of losing control of your life and work.

“Being able to measure your performance against the goals you set will not only identify gaps, which will help you focus, but also create a sense of achievement when goals are met. Both these aspects will greatly support your self-care drive.”

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