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December 14, 2017

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Control The Free-Fall

Do you sometimes feel a little bit out of control during your workday, wish you had more time to do the really important things or feel like you are doing a lot of wheel-spinning on non-productive items? You are not alone. Eighty-five percent of people in the workplace have similar complaints and part of the remedy is better control of our day through more effective Time Management.

For many of us, it is like the guy falling off the Empire State Building. While he is free-falling to a certain unpleasant collision with the pavement below, a co-worker pokes his head out the window at the 55th floor and inquires, "How's it going?", to which our free-falling friend replies, "Well, not too bad...so far!"

So it goes with many of our days, free-falling through the day, not in control of the events around us, spinning our wheels in an air of frustration that eventually sends us crashing into the pavement of missed deadlines, higher stress and lower productivity.

The answer is not to work harder but to work smarter. Successful people do not necessarily put in more hours but, instead, work their time in a more efficient manner to get more done in less time. They control their time and understand that either they are in control or someone else is.

Planning is the most important step in effective Time Management. Three easy rules can be followed to help you to significantly improve your productivity each day, which translates into getting more done in less time.

  1. First, make a "to-do" list on a clean sheet of paper or in your day planner, such as a Daytimer. List all items you would like to complete today, if time permits. Getting the items on paper gets them out of your head and in front of you. Having all items on one list helps to bring these items into control and avoids duplication and overlooking of important items. One list also gives a clearer picture of the total amount of work to be done and allows for better scheduling. Fewer things will slip through the cracks.

  2. Second, prioritize the "to-do" list. Select from the list the most important item to be done. Ask yourself, "If I could only do one item today, which would it be?" Put the numeral "1" to the left of that item. Next, select the second most important item and label it "2." Continue the process labeling all items in numerical order. As you start the day, begin with the first item on the list. Complete it (around the interruptions that will inevitably come your way) and then go to the second item, then the third, etc. You may not complete the list but you will always complete the most important items. Making a "to-do" list is an important first step but prioritizing that list ensures that we focus on the more important items rather than giving in to the temptation of working on the less important items because they may stand out more or because they are easier to do.

  3. Third, follow this process every day. Wearing yesterday's dirty old shirt or fingering through yesterday's stale lunch is not too appealing. So, just as you start the day with clean clothes and a new lunch, start with a new, prioritized "to-do" list. Emotionally, it will give you a lift to start each day with the new plan, but, more importantly, it will give you a chance to reprioritize items left over from the day before. For example, yesterday's item #9 may become today's item #1. If you are working off yesterday's "to-do" list, that important item may not receive attention. Daily planning will sharpen daily focus as priorities shift with each day.

These three rules will help you to significantly improve your performance each and every day and will help to reduce that free-falling feeling. You will find you are getting more done in less time and you will feel more productive and less stressed each day. (And that is a good thing!)

-Dr. Donald E. Wetmore