It’s the plain truth that we’re all busier than ever before. Need proof? Just look at your own life. Chances are you’re always in a rush, and you are constantly nagged by the notion you’ve forgotten to do something, but you’re not sure what it is. “Women typically have longer to-do lists than men because they’re still juggling more of the home and family chores along with their job workload,” says Peggy Duncan, a time productivity expert in Atlanta and author of The Time Management Memory Jogger.
We asked Duncan for tips on how to better manage your workload and increase your productivity—and free time.
Stop procrastinating and take action. To reach your goals, put an action plan in place. Start with specific, measurable goals, and create deadlines, Duncan advises. “Say your goal is to get fit. Make one of your objectives something like ‘I will walk at least three miles three times a week.’”
Determine where your time goes. To jump-start your action plan, keep an “activity log” over several days to see how you spend your time and when you perform at your best. “Schedule the challenging tasks for times of day when you’ve got peak energy, and weed out the tasks that don’t help you reach your goals.”
Let Technology help. Streamline the paper clutter on your desk. Try personal- scheduling software that keeps a calendar, to-do lists, and phone and address books on your computer. But don’t get anything too complicated, Duncan warns. “The latest and greatest technology won’t help unless you know how to use it.”
Learn to say no. Turn off your cell phone and IM during non-office hours. When someone asks you to do something you don’t have time for, say so politely but firmly.