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Five things you can do today

Let’s face it: We can’t “manage” time because it moves ahead with or without us.

We can, however, manage ourselves. And since time is our most valuable asset (because it’s the only one we can’t replace), here are some practical ideas.

1. Plan. All of us have a section in our brain called the Reticular Activating System. Among other things, it helps us focus on the outcomes we want. We often use it for negative outcomes with “worry” (praying for what you don’t want) being the best example.

We can turn that around and set our sights (believe) on positive outcomes. By planning the next day the night before, we harness the power of our minds to engage and execute simply by “sleeping on it.”

Review your to-do list this evening and be amazed at what you accomplish tomorrow!

2. Prioritize. What is most important and should be done first?

What’s next?

Our human tendency is to do the “easy” things first, saving the difficult or least-desirable for last. Often those are really the most important or beneficial tasks.

I recommend a great book, “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy. If you imagine yourself eating a live frog (your least-desirable task) at the beginning of every day, the rest of the day has to be much better!

3. Remember “business” does not mean “busy-ness.” If you are working long hours, overwhelmed with tasks, skipping meals, neglecting your health and family, etc., and you are still not growing, thriving, succeeding, etc., then it’s safe to say that some of your time is being wasted on non-productive activities.

Be honest—there are some things you can delegate. To facilitate your learning, listen to books or motivational CD’s in the car. To save time when returning phone calls, call before lunch or near the end of the day as you will find folks to be lass chatty during those times.

4. Improve paper handling. For every piece of paper on your desk, the more times you touch it (or hunt for it), the less productive you are. Use the four D’s: Dump it, which means throw it away; Delegate it, which means assign responsibility to someone else; Defer it, which means schedule it for another time (file it in the meantime); Do it, which means act now.

5. Reduce distractions. Turn off automatic receive on your e-mail. E-mail populating your computer screen is like a ringing phone and breaks your concentration numerous times during the day.

Schedule three or four times throughout the day when you will check it and stick to that. Time-block some planning or production time each day, close your door, and work uninterrupted.

Have a structured agenda for all meetings and use a timer to stay on schedule. Your team and your clients will thank you for respecting their time. Start today!

Mark Raciappa is a business coach with ActionCoach, a business coaching firm in Tallahassee, Fla. Its Web site is actioncoachmarkraciappa.com, and he can be reached by calling (850) 385-1067.