Beat the Time Trap

By Fran Hewitt

Time marches on. It can't be put in a Tupperware container and stored for later use. Once spent, it is gone forever. The following tips to beat the time trap are equally effective at home or at the office.

Set Up a Schedule for Your Day
The secret to keeping your day under control and preserving your sanity is to identify your priorities before you start. I find the best time to write a schedule is the night before, or early in the morning. Keep it simple. Rank what needs to be done in order of importance, keeping in mind your most important values. Learn to focus on these.

Women are natural multi-taskers. That's good in the sense that you can handle several tasks at the same time. However, if you have an important goal to complete, your habit of multi-tasking may become a source of distraction.

Our daily tasks do not have equal importance. We need to keep asking, "Am I focused on my top priorities?" Too often we surrender to the tyranny of the urgent. Every time the phone rings we answer it, even when we're in the middle of an important project that requires total focus. Avoid interruptions. At the end of the day you don't want a guilty hangover, mentally beating yourself up because you allowed meaningless distractions or other people to ruin your focus.

Using lists helps to free your mind and your energy. I like simplicity, so I use two lists to keep me on track, my Daily list and my Main list. My Daily list details my priorities and schedule for the day. The Main list includes other tasks that require attention through the week, though perhaps not today. Depending on my schedule, I usually include a few items from the Main list on my Daily list if I have time to do them. If not, that's okay. I just put them back on the Main list at the end of the day. By focusing on these two lists I can usually get everything done each week.

At first it will take practice to gauge your capacity. Be careful you don't make your list so long, or the tasks so big, that you set yourself up for failure.

You can record your to-do lists on a simple notepad or on any basic organizer. If you like technology, you can choose from numerous Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) that have multiple functions. Knowing what's available and what suits you best is part of your ongoing education. Harness the expertise of someone who is really up to speed with technology and can help you make wise choices.

When organizing your schedule, don't pack it full of tasks, activities and appointments. If you do, you're going to be running

Use your most productive time to do your most productive work. Tackle your most difficult or important work during the time of day when you're at your best, and when you're more likely to complete it. Develop the do-it-now habit. Don't procrastinate.

Whenever possible, save easier tasks for day's end. You'll be able to complete them, and each day will end on a positive, rewarding note.


Effective scheduling will free up more time, but we must also deal with clutter. Have you noticed how much paper still flows into your life, despite all the instant-response technology? And if it isn't paper, it's all the other stuff that just seems to accumulate in the closet, office and basement. Where does it all come from?

If you don't know where something belongs, how do you know where to put it? If you need that item later, how do you know where to find it? Categorization is vitally important when you're getting organized. Keep all bill-paying supplies in one place. Gather craft supplies in one basket. When you need to work on something, everything will be easily accessible.

Organize & De-clutter

Use the FAT system for all mail: File it-Action now-Trash it. Dump junk mail immediately.

For household items, be ruthless about giving things away or throwing them out. If you haven't used an item in the last two years, you are not likely to need it again. The same principle applies to your wardrobe. Don't keep clothes in the hope that you'll lose weight. If you do, chances are they will either be out of style, or you'll want to reward yourself with new items. Get rid of them, and take better care of the clothes you do have.

If you really want a clutter-free, streamlined home, ask yourself these questions before you go shopping: Do I really need this? Have I got somewhere to keep it? Will I use it? Do I want to be responsible for storing, cleaning and maintaining yet another item? Don't shop unconsciously anymore.

Organize your closet. Dressing each morning from a chaotic closet affirms that your life is chaotic. Organizers for shoes, hats, sweaters, gloves, belts, scarves, pants, handbags and ties can generate an incredible return on investment by blessing you with more time and less stress in the "search and hunt" process.

Keep your bedroom clutter-free - after all, this where you retreat at the end of the day.
If your intimate space is visually disorganized, there will be constant reminders to do something. It requires a lot of energy to suppress these nagging reminders. Clean out under your bed, behind the dressers and even in the drawers.

Work Efficiency Tips

Handle your e-mails once or twice a day-no more. Be rigid about the time you spend dealing with e-mails. Often they are time -wasters.

If you have a leadership role at work, consider stand-up meetings that are no longer than fifteen minutes. Use a small boardroom table to stand around for quick, efficient meetings.

Keep meetings to a minimum each week. Set a specific start/end time, and stick to it. Circulate an agenda in advance. Make sure Action Steps are clarified in the meeting and followed through. When making important phone calls, write out a short agenda and your expectations before you call. Take notes during the conversation about anything that requires specific action.

If you drive a lot in your business, always have plenty of spare change for parking along with extra business cards, stationery, thank-you cards and brochures in the car.

Use technology to help you. For more ideas check out the CD album by Les Hewitt and Mike Foster called e-Savvy: Using Technology To Free Up Your Time, Boost Profits And Reduce Stress! ( Toll Free 1-877-678-0234)

Review all of these ideas in this article and select the ones that appeal to you, then start organizing and simplifying your life. This will free up your time. Letting go of the clutter will create room for new experiences and will release your energy. More time and more energy is exactly what we're looking for.

This article is an excerpt from the recently released book, "The Power of Focus for Women", by Fran Hewitt and Les Hewitt. Fran is an internationally acclaimed workshop facilitator whose passion is helping women to create more joy and meaning in their lives. She is the founder of The Inner Circle Program, a unique self-awareness experience for women from all walks of life. Les is one of the top performance coaches in North America and the author of the international bestseller, "The Power of Focus".

The Power of Focus for Women
is available in leading bookstores.
For more information about this book,
or to buy at Amazon, click here.


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