"UNTIL you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it," said author M. Scott Peck.
Time management is one of my biggest complaints, issues and concerns.
It is also one of the skills that most people rate themselves lowest on in evaluations like performance reviews.
Here are some simple tips to improve your time management, efficiency and productivity:
1. Don't say: "I don't have time."
The next time you want to say those dreaded words, just remember that you have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else. You have the same amount of time in your day as the Olympic swimmer who works out at 4am and the president who has to run a nation.
What you are really trying to say is: "I don't want to make time to do that", and that is not wrong.
But before you say it, imagine if that task was to visit a family member at the hospital and you actually had time to get there. So what you really need to decide is, "Does this deserve my time?"
2. Do the worst first
Start each day by getting rid of your most despised task. Nothing ruins a day like dreading a task you have to do later in the day.
3. Reward yourself
Find out what motivates you and set rewards for yourself if you can achieve all your tasks.
For me, if I can get through three difficult tasks, I will eat some of the doughnuts that my colleague brought to work. Another great thing about that reward is that if I procrastinate, the doughnuts will be gone!
You can also team up with someone and become accountability partners for getting your tasks done.
4. Make a list
Unless you have the world's best memory, you should make a list.
When someone gives you a responsibility, record it somewhere - in your phone or organiser, in an e-mail message to yourself or on a post-it note - it doesn't matter how, just write it down.
Nothing is worse than the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night thinking, "Oh no, I forgot to do that!"
5. Start small
Some people believe in labelling tasks A, B, C in the order of their importance. But as for me, I prefer to do what I call "Little Things First".
When I get an e-mail message that involves a small task, I will get it done quickly rather than continually come back to it over and over again.
I have many recurring tasks in my diary, and the small things on my list are usually gone by about 10.30am, leaving me the bulk of my day to work on larger projects.
6. Set deadlines
When setting yourself a task or getting one from someone else, always find out when it needs to be done by. Then plan an appropriate amount of reminders in your diary before the due date.
7. Get a life
Work-life balance seems to be the buzzword at present, but you really need to put time and energy into this area.
Schedule in time to relax, do things with your family or read. If the activity is marked out in your diary and you commit to it, you are less likely to neglect it.
8. Organise your desk
My desk at work is my haven. My trays work for me.
I can't tell you what the best desk system is, all I know is that if yours does not make your day easier, change it until you get something that works.
For me, I don't allow anyone to put anything on my desk. My assistant is allowed to put things in one tray only. Everything else is put in my communal pigeonhole.
I have a single out-tray - it stops me from getting up 20 or 30 times a day because much of what comes to me needs to go elsewhere in the office.
I have a tray full of non-urgent things to read. When I get time, I start going through it.
I have a tray full of things which are pending action from others, and I have an e-mail folder full of messages like these. My diary prompts me with a recurring reminder to check through these two areas.
Take your time to find out what works for you.
9. Don't be afraid to ask for help
What is worse - asking for help once, or doing a task incorrectly or incompletely five times, or not doing it at all? Don't be a victim of the "scared to ask" disease.
10. Ride on technology
Your mind is not a computer, so use your computer to help your mind become like one.
For me, a little e-mail reminder pops up every Friday to alert me to send out my weekly e-mail. And on every Wednesday, I am told I have two meetings first up. You are not a machine, so use technology to its best advantage.