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3 Simple Strategies for Better Time Management

3 Simple Strategies for Better Time Management
By Geoff Williams | U.S.News & World Report LP – Thu 23 Jan, 2014 10:35 PM IST

People are always trying to find ways to save more money, but saving time may be the true mark of success.
After all, as the saying goes, no one on their deathbed wishes they worked harder to make more money. Although some at the end surely wish they had more of the green stuff during their life, generally, it's said that people ruminate over how they spent their time, not their money. Meanwhile, virtually every successful invention has been so because it's a time-saver, from the vacuum cleaner to the Internet. And in countless surveys, people have said time is more valuable to them than money.

So in the spirit of helping people save time, here are some time-saving ideas.

Preplan everything. You can have daily to-do lists, of course, but Traci Bild swears by preplanning every week, and she has a lot to plan. She owns Bild & Company, a Clearwater, Fla.-based health care consulting firm and runs a find-your-passion self-improvement website, gygb.com, called "Get Your Girl Back."
Bild's preplanning involves what she calls the "weekly wrap-up" on Fridays. She creates a task list for the following week, listing all of her commitments - family and work-related - and makes sure everything is "synced into one central location. No more sticky notes, no loose leaf papers," she says. "For example, I use Outlook to manage all my calendars, send invites to my husband for kid events he needs to attend, and to prioritize and manage my to-do list. You can also color code to symbolize priorities as high, medium or low."
It takes her about 15 minutes, she says, and maybe 45 if she includes meal planning and creates a grocery list.

"Preplanning is a game-changer because you know what's coming before it hits," she adds. "It also gives you the ability to see what's ahead and modify as needed. Too much on one person's plate can be crushing."
And throughout the week, every night for about 10 minutes, Bild does what she calls the "daily wrap-up," in which she monitors and updates her weekly list. She also advises carrying around a "capture tool."
Even if you use a smartphone, she recommends also carrying a clipboard, folder "or something that is easily transportable and that can capture papers, forms that need signed, notes, et cetera, as you go from work to school, sporting events, home and so on," Bild says.

At the end of the day, you can grab everything from your capture tool - "for me, it's a clipboard," Bild says - and transfer the information to your smartphone or task list.
Focus. "We often have 10 to 20 things on our to-do list, but what are the most important things that you need to get done?" asks Cathy Sexton, a time management specialist who runs Productivity Experts, a St. Louis company that offers organizing and productivity skill training to the corporate world.

She suggests focusing on the top three priority tasks on your daily to-do list. Then, if you get those done early, branch out to the other items on your list. Otherwise, it's easy to do a lot of little things but get nothing done.

"When we're busy, we see that as being productive, when productive is really narrowing down what we need to do," Sexton says.

It also helps, as one might imagine, to remove all distractions - or as many as you can, suggests Marc Guberti, a 16-year-old entrepreneur who has written five self-published business books and has 28,000 followers on Twitter. He says his eponymous blog, marcguberti.com, receives more than 300 visitors every day. And, of course, he has homework and exams to study for. He is a case study for time management.
"If there is a TV in the room, have someone hide the remote," he advises. "If there is a phone in the room, move it into another room."

He also recommends taking small breaks. "Consistently doing too much work at one time will lead to a decline in quality," Guberti says.

Sexton echoes the same sentiment. "We can only really work for 90 minutes before our energy starts to lower, mentally and physically," Sexton says. Even if your job doesn't allow you to take as many breaks as you'd like, a restroom break or just briefly thinking about what you're going to do in your down time can help you refocus, Sexton says.

Sexton has another helpful refocusing tip that mirrors Bild's daily wrap-up. Every day before bedtime, she recommends a "brain dump." "You write everything down that's in your head and put it on paper," she says. "Usually when we have all these thoughts that are making us feel overwhelmed, once we get it down on paper, we can organize it in a manner where it doesn't seem so overwhelming and we can sleep better."
And sleep, Sexton adds, is crucial for focusing. If you can't get the full seven or eight hours, at least make sure what you get is quality sleep, she says.

Learn to say no. "People will ask us to do things, and we want to be helpful. But if we're aware of our calendar and what's on our plate, it's much easier to say no. Or, 'No, I can't do it right now,'" Sexton says. Of course, sometimes it's impossible not to add something to your to-do list, if it's your boss doing the asking, or your spouse or a sick relative. But if we're overwhelmed, it's imperative that people say, "No, not now," if they're able.

"We're such a helping society, and we don't want people to dislike us, and we want to help everybody," Sexton says. "But we're not helping ourselves when we put everybody else in front of ourselves."
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