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Most of us have to work, and the more you can do in the least amount of time, the better.

Time management frees you up to not just work better, but ensure balance in your life. Lorraine Pirihi offers some practical tips.

Active ImageBasic Time Management

A simple time management tip is to use a daily ‘to do’ list. You have a couple of choices: write your list in the morning, as the first task at the commencement of your working day; or take the time to do it before you finish up the night before, as your final flourish for the day, freeing your mind so you don’t take your work home with you.

Creating a List

Forget trying to create your ‘to do’ list in your head. It must be written down, then left somewhere highly visible, such as your desktop. I suggest writing it in your diary, so you can juggle it with your other commitments.

An effective list will almost always be updated during the day. It is not a static document. As your priorities alter with each crisis, your list will be a work in progress. And don’t be unrealistic. Steel yourself to list only the achievable projects and activities. If you are unable to complete a task on the designated day, simply transfer it to the next day or another suitable time in your diary. Look at the daily ‘to do’ list as the map that keeps you on track.

When you have written your list in the diary, go back and number each item in order of importance. Start with number one and work your way through.

Recording Information

In today’s busy work environments, we are bombarded with so many different distractions it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on, particularly if you work in a distracting open-plan office.

Instead of recording on scraps of paper or sticky notes all the zillion thoughts that pass through your mind during these stressful periods, use an inexpensive spiral notebook. Anything you write down can then be found again at a later date. Use it with your diary and as a great memory jogger and it will help you focus your thoughts, remind yourself of past conversations and save time from searching for all those ‘back of envelope’ notations.

Telephone Messages

Murphy’s Law of telephones and deadlines means when you are really pressed trying to complete a project on time, the telephone will take off, with a mind of its own.

Try recording a message letting your callers know you are currently unavailable, asking why they are calling, and let them know you will return their call. Or have someone working with you who can screen your calls (lucky you) to give off a similar message. Asking what the call is about will help you assemble any relevant information before you call back, enabling you to better plan your day and return all calls sooner and more effectively.

Time and Stress Management

Effective time management will directly affect your stress management. Using these simple, commonsense time management tips will greatly reduce your stress levels. Keep your systems simple because the simpler they are the more likely you will use them. By implementing these tips and continually sticking with them you will also avoid procrastination, working smarter, not harder.

* Lorraine Pirihi is founder of The Office Organiser and is a personal productivity specialist, life coach, speaker and author. This article is edited and reprinted with permission. www.office-organiser.com.au

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