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Making the Most of Your Time

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." - Michael Altshuler

Time is life's most valuable asset and everyone is allotted the same 24-hour day. How is it that some people can accomplish two or three times more in a single day than others? The answer is simple; they've mastered time management skills.

Have you ever noticed how much you can get done in a few hours when you really have to? Let's use the day before your vacation as an example. You make a list of chores that must be done before you can leave for the airport:

- Take the dog to the kennel
- Go to the bank
- Pick up the dry cleaning
- Gas up the car
- Clean the litter box
- Water the plants
- Take out the trash
- Run and empty the dishwasher
- Mow the yard
- Cancel the newspaper
- Cancel milk delivery

You have only 3 hours to complete all these tasks, yet when finished, you had time left over. How did this happen? You were organized and motivated. This is the essence of time management.

Learning to use your time productively can reduce much of the stress and frustration in your life, leaving you feeling more content. Not only that; but you'll have more time to spend doing the things you enjoy most.

Think-Plan-Organize-Execute-Reevaluate. Time management simply put, is working smarter. The first step in developing an effective time management plan is to determine where you need to spend time and where you do not. Below are just a few basic principles to get started:

1. Determine what time of day you are most productive. Are you more productive in the morning or in the afternoon? Schedule your most important daily tasks during this period. Save your more mundane chores like attending meetings, answering emails and phone calls for later.

2. Use technology to your advantage. Don't return phone calls if sending emails can accomplish the same thing. Return phone calls during the noon hour and leave voice messages. This saves you many minutes of idle chitchat.

3. Get a clear picture. Don't begin a new project until you have all of the details and you completely understand the projects goals and requirements. Get all your questions answered before you begin as there's no sense in doing it twice.

4. Develop good decision making skills. Understand the consequences of each decision you make; will it produce the desired results?

5. Create an action plan. If you neglect to take time for planning, you are setting yourself up for failure. Spend time analyzing every project. Create a "To Do" list and outline each task required to reach your desired goal. Be sure to break down larger tasks into smaller ones. Specify due dates, and priorities. Cross off each task as it's completed, this will help you keep organized and prevent you from forgetting anything. Take a look at your plan, are there ways to simplify it further? Keep your list updated.

6. Get organized. Don't begin a project until you've assembled all the necessary resources and tools you'll need. Use your day planner to remind yourself of upcoming tasks. At the end of the day write down where you left off and make a list of priorities for tomorrow.

7. Set priorities. Know the difference between important tasks and urgent ones. Urgent tasks have short-term consequences while important tasks are those with long-term, goal-related outcomes. Work toward reducing the urgent tasks so you'll have plenty of time for more important priorities. This will help prevent urgent items from becoming emergencies.

8. Learn your software. Learning how to get the most from your computer and its software will also help make your work easier and less time consuming. Spending time learning how to improve your work is more productive than wasting time doing it the same old way. Take advantage of computer software tutorials to become more proficient in your work.

9. Be flexible. Plan time for interruptions and distractions. Make yourself available to respond to surprises and new opportunities.

10. Avoid procrastination. Procrastination is the tendency to avoid, for as long as possible, completing an action or task that needs to be done, usually by focusing on some other distraction. Getting it over with right away will keep time from being wasted.

11. Stay focused. Avoid jumping from one uncompleted task to another. Try to finish one job before moving on to the next.

12. Delegate. What tasks can be delegated to others?

13. Follow a routine. Make your new routine a habit. Every new habit you develop is an important step toward taking control of your time.

14. Reward yourself. Balance your work with pleasure and reward yourself for completing your goals, even the small ones.

15. Reevaluate: After completing a project, revisit your "To Do" list. Were there any unnecessary steps? Is there a way the task could be accomplished with less effort next time?

Wasted time is lost opportunity. Lost opportunity equals diminished productivity. Lost productivity means less time to spend doing the things you want to do. Your life is a progression of choices. You have control over the choices you make, not the flow of time.

Time management is one source for a happier more productive life, and studies have shown that happy people feel less rushed because they are in control of their time. Once you've mastered these skills, you'll find yourself able to maintain a healthier balance between your work, and your family.

Copyright 2005, Video Professor Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Mary Carroll is a customer advocate for Video Professor, the leader in self-paced software learning tutorials, helping our customers to better understand Video Professor and how our tutorials can provide tools to learn various software programs to your desired level.

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