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
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.
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.