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Time ...

Time is clearly a precious commodity ... and sometimes there just is not enough to go around! The best that we can do is to prioritize, make best use of the time available and get those highest priority items done.

It is important to understand which items are not negotiable when it comes to delivery times ... and equally important to set expectations correctly.

So ... when you find yourself in the situation where you have too much work to fit into the time available here are some thoughts.

1. Do NOT just keep "doing stuff" because it is "top of mind"; "a squeaky wheel"; "the thing that you want to do".
2. DO step back and take stock. It feels counterproductive to stop working on your "to dos", however you will be MOST effective if you have a plan.

A. If you don't already have it, make a list of your tasks.
B. Prioritize them ... keep it very simple. Only assign a priority to things that MUST be done. if it is optional then leave it on the list. My scheme might just be priority A items that MUST be DONE and are time sensitive. Priority B items might be HIGHLY DESIRABLE tasks that will bring value but are not absolutely necessary. I then might identify items that are very quick to "knock off" and will bring some value.
C. Next I will identify time constraints. For all of the A and B priorities identify when they are needed and how long they will take.
D. Now I can understand if I have any commitments "at risk" and these need to be communicated to anyone involved!

Once I have the list under control my mind is cleared to focus on the tasks at hand, rather than have that nagging feeling that I am forgetting things, or that I am letting people down!

I will work at the highest return items ... and when I need breaks, or find myself with a few minutes while I wait for something I will "knock off" the "quick hit" items.

Some other thoughts:

1. Email, phone, social networks and colleagues will ALL provide distractions. You MUST find a way to manage these.
a. Put your phone on call forward and decide how often you MUST check for voicemail. It will be very job dependent, but constant phone interruptions will definitely hurt your productivity. If your job requires a lot of phone work perhaps you can leave a pertinent message for callers ... if this is URGENT then (text, call the receptionist and ask them to interrupt; call you mobile ... whatever works for you).
b. Close your email ... and again decide how often you MUST check it. Instant gratification to email is a HUGE distraction.
c. Let your colleagues know that you are heads down and can't have distractions ... again determine specific times when you will be available to discuss things.

I am currently in one of those periods. We are starting a new fiscal year here at Eagle; we are introducing some new lines of business; it is United Way time and I am a volunteer on one of their committees; my industry association work is ramping up and is actually too much right now.

So I have some decisions to make ... my primary commitment is to my business, but I have a duty to support the communities in which I live and operate. I am duty bound to give back! I will try to manage that commitment, but I will also be more focused on the tasks that MUST be done. It may well be that I will blog a little less often ... I may be a little less social for a while, my personal time will suffer a little, I may start my day a little earlier and end a little later.

My saving grace will be that I can be very productive when I focus on managing my time ... and that is exactly what I need to be doing right now.

Are you managing your time as effectively as you could?