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6 Tips for Better Time Management

Learn how to make time to smell the roses.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

The simple, unpleasant truth is that we are probably busier than we ever have been. Notwithstanding the fact that little science backs up this notion, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.

"You can see it all around us," says Jana Jasper, a New York-based productivity expert and author of Take Back Your Time. "People talk too fast. We're always in a rush. We start things and don't finish them and are constantly nagged by the idea that we've forgotten to do something, but we're not sure what it is."

That people awash in labor- and time-saving devices, from robotic vacuum cleaners to microwave ovens to computers, would feel so harried so often seems counterintuitive. But what technology gives, it also takes away.

"As we have increased the numbers of time-saving devices and products to make our lives easier we have found ways to fill the time," says Tracy Lyn Moland a time management consultant and author of Mom Management, Managing Mom Before Everybody Else. And a chronic lack of time leads to stress.

But the time-management experts we spoke to all say that it is possible to reduce stress. Think about it as adding an extra hour to your day through time-management techniques.

Something as simple as "knowing where your keys are in the morning, knowing where your kid's library book or homework is, will reduce a lot of stress," says Moland. She has a number of time management tips.

Make a Time Diary

Take a week and plot out what you do every day. Be honest. If you watch 25 hours of TV each week, write it down.

"This is a painful awakening for most people," says Jana Jasper. "You have to include everything --- gym time, eating, driving, weekly meetings, all of it. It can be upsetting to see how little unstructured time we allow ourselves. But it's difficult to make intelligent decisions about using your time more effectively if you don't know what you're doing with your time now."

Learn to Say "No"

Turn off your cell phone and beeper. When someone asks you to do something that you really don't have time to do, say so, politely, but firmly. And don't allow yourself to feel guilty.

"One reason we are feeling so busy all the time is that we are worse at setting personal boundaries around what we'll say 'no' to," says Jana Kemp, founder and president of Meeting & Management Essentials, a time-management consultancy in Boise, Idaho.

Part of declining to do things, is focusing on your goals, Kemp explains. Your time diary can help in this regard. Once you've blocked time for important, but often not scheduled activities, sign on for only those things that are important, family, friends and health. Once you know exactly what you have time to do, turning down things that don't fit into your priorities is easier.

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