How often do you wake up to the piercing blare of your alarm and then spend the day feeling as panicked and disoriented as when you were first roused? Here are some strategies to help you feel more calm and in control of your day and your meetings.

Usually when people are faced with a time crunch, they think of ways to multitask, such as brushing their teeth in the shower, reading their e-mail while having their morning coffee instead of bantering with colleagues or reviewing documents while waiting for a meeting to begin. These might buy you a few minutes but they canít be applied to the multitude of time-stressed situations that arise throughout the day. The following strategies can.

Mind the Clock
The most important thing to realize is that in order to beat the clock, you need to mind the clock. Be conscious of the amount of time you spend on activities, especially on day-to-day tasks since we often underestimate how long it actually takes to accomplish these. For example, if you donít account for the time it takes to read and respond to the overnight build-up of e-mail, youíll feel behind schedule every morning before youíve even started working on your projects!

Make Time Count
Planning is key. You must allocate your time in order to save time. One simple rule is to spend at least five minutes each and every day planning your day. Write a list of all the activities you want to accomplish and estimate the time it will take to perform each. Then, prioritize them in order of importance. Begin by applying your efforts to the top item and work to your time deadline. If you have not finished the activity when the allocated time is up, continue until it is done before you move on to the next task.

For meetings, the agenda is your most critical ally against the loss of productive work time. Your agenda should itemize every topic to be discussed, list the participant(s) to lead that topic and set a specific amount of time for each one. Participants should be required to read the agenda well in advance of the actual meeting, to think about what they will be asked to comment on and prepare their contribution.

Keep on Track
It may be difficult at first to estimate the amount of time it takes to accomplish an activity. Start to track how much time it actually takes to do what youíve intended by creating a simple table and logging how many minutes you spend on each task. You may be surprised to see how many times youíre disrupted and how much time you spend re-orienting yourself to the task at hand.

Limit Distractions
You can save a lot of time simply by limiting distractions. Evaluate whether itís more important to attend to the new matter or your current activity. Itís critical to monitor progress and manage disruptions during a meeting. You need to keep an eye on the clock and stop discussions that you know are unproductive or better handled outside the meeting.

Since you already know how much work time you have, youíll have more productive and stress-free days when you make a plan and can realistically predict how much time it takes to accomplish your tasks. Now, you can stop the clock before the alarm goes off.

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