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Three Tips To Manage Your Daily Schedule More Effectively

May 6, 2014

ScheduleNew research from the Department of Informatics at the University of California reveals that Americans are interrupted every three minutes and take up to 23 minutes to get back on track.

At the same time, you and I feel pressured to do more and produce more in less time.

What’s the solution?  How can you establish better time-management skills in the face of constant distractions?

Use your time more effectively at work.

Start by tracking your time for five working days. Various tools can help do that, such as this 14-day free trial for a time tracker. How much time are you spending on minor distractions?  How often are you checking your email?

Stop procrastinating.

  • It’s easy to procrastinate… making emails and returning phone calls the focus of your day.  Review your time tracker again.  The Wall Street Journal found that many people are spending up to three hours a day on emails.
  • Block out time to focus on a project without email interruptions.  Try Inbox Pause, a Google Chrome extension that lets you delay or pause any emails coming in your inbox until you are ready to receive them again.
  • Turn off your social media “push” notifications.  Check your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks – stop letting it text or pin you when someone updates, posts, or tags you – unless you want to keep getting interrupted.
  • Perhaps you are hiding in your office by making long to-do lists or endlessly researching prospects.  These are destructive forms of avoidance and procrastination.

Schedule your major projects (building relationships) ahead of time before doing minor tasks.

  • In Stephen R. Covey’s classic story, “The Big Rocks of Life,” he describes a man trying to fill a bucket with large rocks, gravel, and sand.  The secret to fitting all those items in is to put the large rocks in first, then the gravel, and finally the sand.  Now imagine that bucket represents your time.  The big rocks are the highest priorities, the things that matter – your clients, your prospects and centers of influence.  When you ignore them and spend your time on unscheduled activities that pop into your inbox, you’ll find that your week has passed but you’ve probably accomplished little.  Your major priorities are still undone, left untouched, unfinished.
  • On Friday afternoon or early Monday morning, make a list of the clients, prospects, and centers of influence you want to communicate with each week.  Keep your list short – just put four to six names on it.  Shoot for about one major contact each day.  Try to schedule these for early in the day so you can do them first.
  • Next check your calendar for pre-existing appointments. Now put your major priorities on your calendar.  Put them at a time when you’re fairly certain you’ll get them done.  Set a reminder.
  • Set some shorter times to respond to emails and phone calls.  These are your incoming pebbles.  By batching them, you can boost your efficiency.  Be sure to block some time for unknown urgent activities, the “fires” you have to put out.
  • Don’t overbook yourself – a tight schedule tends to implode.  You’ll find yourself pushing your major priorities off to another day because your minor distractions took too long to complete.

Remember Parkinson’s law.

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” wrote British historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson.  When you set a deadline for the amount of time you’ll spend on each activity and block it on your calendar, you’ll be more likely get it all done.

Review your schedule each week and look for better ways to manage your schedule.  Successful people plan their work, then work their plan.  They manage their schedule and never let it control them.

What time management tips have you implemented that made you more efficient, productive, or focused?

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