Twenty ways to get more from your day

1. Take charge of your time. If days just seem to slip away and it is often mid afternoon before you make any headway on your tasks then you are not in control. Begin by monitoring your time, this will help you pinpoint where any problems lie. Get a sheet of paper and make three columns with headings such as Time Started, Activity, and Time Taken. Write down everything you do over a few days.

You will realise very quickly how your hours and days are being gobbled up. How long do you spend on the phone, for instance, or watching television, travelling to and from work, searching for important documents you’ve mislaid or organising the children’s homework for the next day?

Get a wall calendar and fill it in as far ahead as possible. Mark down school holidays, meetings, birthdays, family occasions, etc.

2. Examine your priorities. Now that you have a snapshot of how you are spending your hours consider if you are making the best use of them or if you are wasting valuable time on unimportant chores which could be put to better use relaxing or reducing your workload. Research reveals that many of us spend up to 80 per cent of our time on non-essential tasks.

3. Plan. Setting targets for each day, week or month will help you organise your time more efficiently. Make a list of everything you want to do tomorrow/this week/this month, listing them in order of priority. Goals will give you a sense of direction and help keep you alert and focused. They need not be elaborate but make sure they are specific, realistic and time related. Breaking them down into manageable steps will boost your self confidence and encourage you to aim higher. Draw up an action plan detailing how much time you are going to devote to achieving your plans. Try to take your first step as soon as possible. Once you get going the whole thing will gain momentum.

4. Review your day at the end of each evening and examine how much you have achieved.

5. Start small. Aim for mini successes. Do not expect to become completely organised and efficient overnight.

6. Be selective. The more things you try to pack into a day the more your energy and time will be diluted and the less likely you will be to achieve all of them. Focus only on the important ones and be singleminded about achieving these.

7. Don’t procrastinate. It is all too easy to put things on the long finger and plan to achieve change when the time is right. You may never get the perfect circumstances so take that first step today.

8. Make lists. Have a “Things I must do today” list and also one for the following week. Record everything from completing your income tax returns to returning books to the library to cleaning the house. Writing down the daily/weekly tasks you have to do will help focus your mind and ensure you remember them.

9. Make the most of your leisure time. Quality time is important because it helps us unwind, recharge our batteries and face life with renewed enthusiasm and vigour. In your spare time try to shift your attention totally away from work/study/family commitments and focus on something altogether different.

Be kind to yourself, too. Care for your mind and body. Eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Pamper yourself with a long soak in a scented bath, eat dinner at home by candlelight or watch the sunset. Treat yourself to a massage, a facial, a pedicure if your finances can stretch to it. If you suffer a setback, try again.

10. Break tasks into segments. If the chore facing you is a big one break it into smaller parts. It will be easier to manage this way. Always try to finish a job, valuable time is lost trying to catch up on yesterday’s unfinished business.

11. Allow some free time each day so that if something unexpected turns up you will be able to handle it.

12. Use reminders. Leave notes around the house in conspicuous places reminding yourself of things you need to do. For example if you always forget to bring an umbrella when leaving the house pin a note inside the front door, or put a post-it on the fridge saying you need to buy milk.

13. Overestimate how long it is going to take to complete most activities from driving to work, preparing a report or cooking dinner. That way you will be less likely to get frazzled and will tend to be ahead of schedule.

14. Do a clear out both at work and at home. Get rid of unwanted documents, old newspapers, clothes you never wear, broken utensils or any other items which are cluttering up your life.

15. Be flexible. Do not have hard and fast rules set out and expect everyone, including yourself, to follow them all the time. Learn to compromise.

16. When shopping aim to go when the streets are least crowded, such as early morning or late at night. That way you will save time and escape stress. Avoid peak times when you will have to fight your way through the crowds.

17. Be assertive. Learn to say “no” and mean it. This will help you get your needs met. Remember, you are not responsible for other people’s happiness and welfare. When you are in charge of your own needs, you will be more in control of your life.

18. Examine your priorities. Are they contributing to your wellbeing and happiness or are they putting undue stress on you? Look at what is important to you personally. Reassess your values and needs, if necessary.

19. Learn to deal with pressure. Work out how to cope with stressors, such as a limited budget, workplace demands or preparing for Christmas otherwise they will unfold spontaneously and you will be less in control.

20. Learn to delegate. Begin by learning to negotiate. If you do not know how to negotiate, then you cannot delegate. At work or home this will not come easy but it is worth putting it into practice.

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