YESTERDAY, we discussed important time management issues such as efficiency versus effectiveness, identified some common time wasters and emphasised the importance of setting priorities and making to-do lists.

Let's now look at other obstacles to using your time wisely and how to overcome them.

Procrastination

Ever since I can remember, my mother's favourite piece of advice has been: "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today."

Procrastination is like a virus. It creeps up on you slowly, drains you of energy and is difficult to get rid of if your resistance is low.

These suggestions will help you conquer the "virus":

1. Give yourself deadlines.

In moderation, pressure motivates. Extreme pressure debilitates.

Set appointments, make commitments, write out your goals and develop the determination to succeed.

2. Don't duck difficult problems.

Tackle them first so that you can look forward to the easy ones.

If you work on the easy ones first, you might expand the time that they take to avoid the difficult ones waiting for you.

Many people put off difficult or large tasks because they appear too huge to tackle in a reasonable time frame.

The solution to this problem is to break all large or difficult tasks into their smaller sub-parts. Then, you can do each of the sub-parts over a series of days, if appropriate.

3. Don't let perfectionism paralyse you.

Many sales executives have this problem when writing proposals. They sit with pad and pen in hand waiting for the "right" words to come out.

Be prolific in your activities. You can always go back later and polish those things you are unhappy with.

Better yet, you can delegate the polishing to someone else.

Because humans are so susceptible to procrastination, you must work at building up your immunity to it. Effective action is the best medicine.

Paperwork

Try to answer any correspondence or incoming mail immediately.

Act promptly on whatever you can. If you receive a magazine, peruse it and clip out articles you intend to read.

Try categorising your reading material into three groups: articles you must read soon, articles you should read and articles that would be nice to read. Clipping the article makes it more accessible.

Naturally, there will be more than mail accumulating on your desk. Adopt a policy of picking up paperwork only once.

This means you should not look at something and put it back down where you found it. Decide what to do with it and move it along to the next step towards completion.

Phone calls

The telephone is, of course, one of life's greatest time savers. It does away with having to write letters, make trips and meet people. It can also be a great time waster.

To avoid spending more time than necessary in calling people back, follow these suggestions:

* Determine the best time of day for you to return calls;

* Prepare information in advance when you call back. You can gather files and documents that you will need to answer questions;

* Curtail the length of your calls, when and where appropriate; and

* Be organised. List the questions or topics you wish to discuss and have them in front of you.

Reduce stress

In our goal-oriented, hyper-motivated, money-making workday we often deny ourselves the much needed periods of relaxation.

Like a high-powered sports car, we can be very impressive at high speeds but sacrifice distance, efficiency, and physical integrity in the process.

Your body and mind are designed to work well if they are not overtaxed. Frequent periods of relaxation and stress reduction are important to the longevity of your body and mind.

A coffee or lunch break should be used as a time to relax so that you are more effective when you return to work. The relaxation you seek during a break should achieve three things:

* Provide distraction and get your mind off the job;

* Alleviate tension; and

* Be short enough not to severely interfere with your workday but long enough to provide you with some benefits.

Change your bad habits

Managing your time efficiently and effectively will require some changes in your behaviour and thinking. Those changes require practice.

Giant strides, when looked at closely, are made up of many small steps. In "overhauling" your management of time, you too need to take small steps.

What are waiting for? Start doing those things that will make you a better manager of your time.