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Personal Best

The hours flew by; the day is over; the week is up. But you still have tasks crying to be done, and come Friday, you're stressed and frustrated.

You'll always have too many demands on your time, but you can use it more effectively, become more productive, and make your life richer and more satisfying.

Some people become time-squeezed because they don't use time management tactics that help them be proactive about work. Other times, your own personality quirks get in the way. See if any of these common issues are what's bogging you down, and read what to do about it. It will take effort, but it takes time to make time.

2. No lists. It's hard to stick to a plan if you haven't committed it to paper. You should have two lists: the first, a master list showing long-term (which you want to accomplish within three to 10 years), mid-term (which you want to accomplish within the next six months to three years), and short-term goals. Break down goals that entail several steps into substeps, listing each activity required.

The second is your daily to-do list. It itemizes what you want to accomplish during your workday. The point of the list isn't just to cross things off. The list enables you to analyze your tasks; evaluate, prioritize, and group them; and look for efficiencies. Make up your list at the end of the day, so it's ready for you to hit the ground running the next morning.

3. Too many goals. The world is a cornucopia of hobbies, sports, challenges, interactions with family and friends, career goals, etc. It's tempting to want to do everything and easy to overcommit yourself.

It's been said that you can do anything but you can't do everything-at least not all at once. Before getting involved in a new activity or saying Yes to a social event, consider the time required and review your schedule. Prioritize your goals and desires, and see where the activity stacks up. If a pleasant diversion deflects you from what's important to you, you may need to rejigger your priorities or table the goal and revisit it later.

4. No work efficiencies. Some work processes take on a life of their own; perhaps they're a holdover from old technology, a different staff, or prior needs. You should, on a regular basis, analyze your work processes to see what you can streamline or re-engineer. Change the process itself-don't just keep performing all the same steps faster.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health