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8. Manage Your Time at Work

Although technically we all have the same amount of time each day (twenty-four hours), time is mysteriously malleable. Have you ever noticed how an hour can fly by like five minutes or crawl by like three hours? They say “time flies when you’re having fun,” but time also flies when you are scattered and disorganized. If you have three hours to get something done and you don’t manage your time efficiently, those three hours will fly by in a rush of half-finished jobs as you flit from task to task with dispersed energy. If, instead, your time is organized and you are able to devote your full concentration to one task at a time, time seems to expand in quantity and quality.

9. Start Small

If you start with too many goals, too long of a to-do list, or too high expectations for yourself, you are setting yourself up for failure. Begin with one single time management step, such as laying out your clothes for the next day the night before, to save time in the morning, or by vowing that the counters will be free of dirty dishes every single night, to ease the breakfast rush. As you master each step, you can add more.

10. Identify Your Time Management Issues

Are you perfectly efficient at work but your time management skills fall apart in the unstructured, unscheduled environment of your home? Do you spend all day dealing with other people’s crises and taking care of busywork, never getting enough time to sit down and really concentrate on your job? Know your trouble spots—the places where time is being frittered away.

11. Identify Your Time Management Priorities

Make a list ranking the things on which you most want to spend your time. Would you like to add family time first, then household organization time, then some personal time? Would you like to make time for your favorite hobby, time for yourself, or time for romance? Would you just like more time to sleep?

Look at the top five items on your time management priorities list. Focus on those. Be very wary of letting yourself take on anything that takes your time if it isn’t focused on one of your top five priorities.

12. Have a Strategy

When the day starts, know where you are going. Know what you will do. Time unplanned is often time wasted. That doesn’t mean you can’t allow for spontaneity or a lovely, unplanned, unscheduled hour or two. Even a whole day of purposefully unplanned time is well worth it. But time unplanned in which you frantically try to accomplish ten different things is time wasted, and that’s stressful.

13. Just Say No

Learn to say no to requests for your time unless that time spent would be for something very important to you. You don’t have to be on the committee. You don’t have to go to that meeting. Just say no and watch that stress that was waiting to descend upon your life float away in another direction.

If you’ve already taken on too much, learn to start purging. Don’t let anything waste your time. Time spent relaxing by yourself isn’t wasted if it refreshes and rejuvenates you. Time spent pacing and worrying is wasted time. Time spent enduring a committee meeting you don’t really enjoy is wasted time. Time spent actively engaged in a committee whose cause inspires you is time well spent.

14. Charge More

If you are self-employed, don’t waste time on jobs that don’t pay you for what your time is worth. (This is difficult until you are well-established.) But this rule doesn’t just apply to work and actual money. Everything you do takes time. Is the reward payment enough for the time spent? If it isn’t, ditch it.

15. Do It Later

Do you really need to check your e-mail every ten minutes? Do you really need to change the sheets, vacuum the car, mow the lawn today? If doing it later is just procrastination, you’ll spend the saved time worrying. But sometimes, when your time is at a premium, you can relieve your stress and make your life easier by postponing the less crucial chores.

That said, remember that not having enough time is always an excuse, never a reason. You can make time for anything if it’s important enough. You just have to stop spending time on something less important. You have control over your time. Time doesn’t control you.

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