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Effective Time Management

Updated on March 24, 2010

A little re-organization can reduce the stresses of everyday life.

Effective time management

Do you have difficulty managing your time well? A little reorganization could reduce the stresses of everyday life.

Clear the clutter

Whether at home or at work, organization is the key to freeing up time. The first step is to clean up and throw out. If you can't bear to throw anything away, get someone to help you.
Throw away junk mail and file paperwork regularly; get a highly organized friend to share a good system with you and repeat the de-cluttering exercise at intervals1.


Do you find interruptions at work take up all your time?

1) Keep conversations to the point. Keep a clock nearby and allocate a certain amount of time to deal with a call or question.

2) Summarize the conversation and reiterate who should do what.

3) Take control and visit people, rather than having them come to visit you. This way you can control the amount of time you spend with them.
Learn to control the conversation by using this three-step assertiveness model:
  1. I understand your problem... e.g. "I appreciate your need to speak with me"
  2. However, I think or feel... e.g. "However, I really need to finish something important right now"
  3. I suggest... e.g. "Can I call you at 3pm when I can give you my full attention?"
Where possible, use your voicemail or have calls diverted.

Planning and prioritizing

To manage your time effectively, use a calendar or organizer to keep track of appointments and plan ahead. If you use an electronic organizer, remember to back-up the data regularly.
Prioritize your tasks using a simple A, B, C system2:
  • A: Urgent items for immediate attention
  • B: Important items that require attention in the near future
  • C: Non-essential or non-urgent items

Work/life balance

Achieving a work/life balance can be very difficult, but these techniques will help:
  • Use your time going to and from work to read, relax, think about fun things, and plan what you are going to do with your family and friends.
  • Take a lunch break - read the paper, go for a walk, and have non work-related discussions with co-workers.
  • Decide on your personal priorities and make sure these are entered into your calendar. The busier your work life, the more you need to plan ahead.
  • Take short breaks during the day, so that your brain and body have a chance to relax - a five-minute break never hurt anyone.
  • If you are a perfectionist, think again - you cannot win. Turn perfectionist thinking into realistic thinking.


  1. Gutmann J. The Stress Workbook. Sheldon Press, London 1998
  2. McMahon G. Time management solutions for management practitioners. Stress News p7-9. International Stress Management Association, London. 2000


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