Beat the Clock:
Feeling behind the time?
Try these 10 tips to meet deadlines -- and goals.

As seen in the Executive Female
by Jennifer White
March 2000

Do you feel as though you're overwhelmed with assignments, as if you'll never get to half the work on your plate? Often, it seems as if the tasks that matter least take up the bulk of the day, pushing the projects that require your real attention to the bottom of the pile.

Focused time-management strategies are the key to making the hours at the office work for you. Here are 10 ways to find time on your side:

  1. Prioritize your responsibilities, spending the majority of your time focused on the most important ones. By remaining conscious of activities that are not goal-oriented, you can steer yourself back to the assignments that help meet your true objectives.
  2. Schedule one day a week to concentrate on administrative tasks. Clutter can cost hours each day due to hidden papers and constant distractions. Go through the stacks on your desk. File away all papers, discard all irrelevant files, and subdivide larger folders into smaller more specific ones, which makes it easy to find papers without weeding through large stacks. At the end of the day, prioritize your in-box by putting the most important material on top. This is also the day to answer all standard correspondence before it gets out of hand. If you don't believe you can schedule an entire day, start by closing your door for two hours at a time.
  3. Limit the number of face-to-face meetings you attend, opting out of those that don't directly involve you. When you do call a meeting, make sure to create a written agenda to stay focused on its purpose. Decide in advance what needs to be accomplished and keep the discussion centered on achieving it.
  4. Don't be of the "I can do it better" persuasion. Determine which jobs reliable staff members can handle and delegate.
  5. During phone conversations, ask if there is a time you can talk uninterrupted rather than holding on endlessly.
  6. Ask your assistant to screen calls and, if possible, pass them along to others who can handle them.
  7. Put responsibilities on your calendar. Scheduling puts you in control of your day, tending to your assignments as you would an appointment.
  8. Get into the office a little early to organize your desk and focus on what you want to achieve. Often, the most productive time of the day is before the rest of the staff arrives and the phones start ringing.
  9. Check your e-mail once a day at the same time every day. This frees up time to focus on other activities. If there is too much e-mail to review once a day, then schedule two times to respond. Handle each message you receive -- no saving, no filing away for later. (You can use this strategy for returningvoice-mail messages as well.)
  10. Learn to say no. Try not to accept new projects until you finish those for which you're already responsible. If given the opportunity, accept assignments that you are particularly qualified for, passing along others to more equipped co-workers.
    Identify your biggest time-wasters, from procrastination to unannouncedvisitors, and develop strategies to overcome them. If tackling the least favorite assignments first thing in the morning helps with the former and shutting the door for the morning resolves the latter, you've just turned work time into quality time.

A former corporate executive and small business owner, Jennifer White is the founder and president of The JWC Group, a Kansas City-based firm which provides success coaching nationwide. She is the author of the book Work Less, Make More (John Wiley & Sons, 1999).

© Copyright 2000, Executive Female