Ensuring efficiency: How to use your time wisely

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You are probably doing something else while you are skimming this article. The title caught your eye and you thought, “If only I had time to manage my time.” We are all busy, and many of us have more things to do than the time to complete them.

Despite our efforts, many things keep us from using our time wisely. Distractions, multi-tasking and being in a hurry are just a few of the perpetrators. These problems leave most people with 60 percent or less of their time available for getting things done, according to a Microsoft survey.

Using your time effectively will leave you relaxed and enjoying your extra hours. This time management can be learned by single-tasking, planning and prioritizing.

Only about 2.5 percent of the population can successfully multi-task, that is, perform multiple tasks equally well, according to Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. These “supertaskers” are not the norm. Yes, we can do multiple things simultaneously, but each thing suffers. Multi-tasking is less efficient and more complicated.

To avoid feeling like you need to multi-task, write down a to-do list that is manageable. This doesn’t mean you should aim low to reach your goals, but it does mean you should not plan to do eight hours of work in a four-hour chunk of time.

If you are like most people, you often overestimate your capabilities, which leaves you with unchecked boxes on your list at the end of the day. Lynn Gross-Cerf, a professional organizer working out of San Jose, Calif., said on her website organization will end up giving you more time.

“Better organization results in increased efficiency, improved quality of life and better use of time,” she said.

Fewer distractions means more productivity. By focusing your time, you will actually accomplish more tasks quickly and well. You will learn to identify what uses of your time are effective and ineffective .

As the adage goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” About 43 percent of Americans categorize themselves as disorganized, according to an Esselte survey. Almost half of them said disorganization makes them work late at least twice every week. Organizing your time and planning your schedule will mostly likely reveal extra time you did not realize you had.

The key to planning successfully is having only one planner for everything. Whether it be a planner, online calendar or an agenda in your phone, pick one and stick with it.

Laura Stack, a professional organizer, said it is important to plan to succeed.

“Don’t tackle a job without drawing up a plan of attack,” Stack said. “List all the steps it will take to execute your plan in a logical sequence. Each night, draw up your plans for the next day so you are focused and purposeful.”

When planning your day, do so in half-hour or hour blocks of time. This will ensure not a moment is wasted. Grouping similar tasks together will save time because transition time will be shortened and save you from redundancies. However, change activities fairly often. This will keep you moving and motivated.

“Taking on too much and feeling scattered in a million directions are typical symptoms of having unclear goals and priorities,” said Julie Morgenstern, founder of Organizing from the Inside Out, a professional organizing company.

Cami Eberline, an assistant learning specialist at BYU, suggested making lists and numbering the tasks in order of importance.

“Your life will be so much easier if you prioritize because you’re not going to be stressing about all the things you have to do,” Eberline said. “You can focus on the most important thing and not worry about anything else until it’s done.”

By prioritizing, planning and doing only one task at a time, you will be productive and complete the tasks you need to. You will be surprised at the extra time on your hands when you spend less time worrying and trying to complete a multitude of tasks. Effective time-management allows for more time to be spent on extracurricular activities, church callings, service and relationships.

 

3 tips for single-tasking:
Get rid of distractions and use only the supplies you need.
Choose one thing to focus on. You will be surprised at the power of 100 percent focus.
Make a realistic to-do list so you don’t feel overwhelmed and tempted to multi-task

 

3 tips for planning:
Plan important items at times when you are distraction-free.
Do harder tasks when you have more energy.
Complete difficult or less-than-exciting tasks first.

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