There’s a limited amount of time in each day and an unlimited amount of things you could do with that time.  Like everyone else, I often feel busy but don’t always see what I’ve accomplished when the day is done.  With funny videos being posted on Facebook, texts, emails, popular articles surfacing on your timeline on Twitter, there are countless things to pique your interest and make you veer away from the day’s agenda.

A few days ago, I was catching up with a friend who is 800 miles away. Our catchup session was longer than usual since our schedules often conflict.  We soon realized that we had both fallen victim to sleeping in, relaxing and not tackling the things on our to-do lists as planned.  Of course you need to take it easy sometimes, but my plan was to be up and out the door by around 8 AM so I was already hours behind schedule.

So I spent some time thinking about what it really takes to get manage your time and get things done.  I started with a long list but in terms of what is truly crucial and consequential, I was left with these three steps:

1.  Figure out what you need to do.  Without direction, an objective and a clear list of tasks, it is hard to move forward and accomplish anything.  So the first thing is to figure out what you need to get done.  If you’re following through on directives from others, make sure you’re clear on the details.  If you’re running the show and creating and tackling your own list, make sure you’re honest with yourself so you include everything.

2.  Prioritize your list.  One really important skills is to know what to work on now and what can wait.  Not everything in your list will be high priority and being able to attack your list accordingly will really impact your effectiveness.  This is especially important if you’re reporting to others who are depending on your output.

3.  Get things done, efficiently.  If you’re working on your list, that’s generally a good thing. But don’t spend all day working on one item with 20 more left untouched.  Being busy doesn’t always translate to effectiveness so make sure you’re not spinning your wheels unnecessarily.  In between tasks that require a lot of focus, do lighter tasks or take a break altogether to do something different.  Stepping away will usually give you that boost and revitalization you need.

My friend and I eventually got our acts together and by the time I checked in later in the day, she had called her cell phone provider and was well on her way to getting a new phone within the week.  Some time ago, her iPhone stopped working so she reverted to an old flip phone because she wasn’t due for an upgrade for two months.  By picking up the phone and sharing she was considering switching providers, she got her monthly bill lowered and the option to upgrade her phone immediately for a minimum down payment.  On my end, I revisited the installation of some software onto my new computer and got it to work with one try after multiple failed attempts the night before.  Now I finally had access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint which I needed to do other things on my list.

So get your list, your coffee and snacks and get to work.  You’ll see how amazing the power of the start is!

Do you ever feel like you could do a better job of managing your time and getting things done?  What are some obstacles you face?  How do you get on track and accomplish things?

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