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Steve Jobs kept a running list of his daily tasks and to stay on schedule, he routinely referenced the list asking himself, “What’s my next action?”.

Self-discipline and taking control of your time are the essential elements needed to conquer the elusive “fait accompli” of seemingly endless tasks.

Productivity increases when “to do” lists are crafted and soundly implemented.  When you construct a list, set a timeframe (i.e., three days) that designates when all tasks must be completed; purge the list afterwards.  Be sure not to confuse a “to do” list with a “project list”.

Here are a few ideas that might help you “get it all done”:

* Make a “To Don’t” list.  A major reason people don’t complete daily tasks is because they are sidetracked by peripheral activities, thoughts and interruptions.  So, if the first priority of the day is to finalize the financial summary for an upcoming board meeting, the “To Don’t” list should include things like opening and answering emails, taking unrelated telephone calls, initiating impromptu meetings, social media engagement (you get the idea).

* Prioritize assignments by tackling the most difficult task first because that’s where you will spend most of your energy, time and resources.  By doing this, you’ll be in a better position to complete the rest of the day’s assignments.

* Create a realistic task list.  Attempting to complete a number of complicated and time consuming assignments in one day causes “brain overload” and frustration if you don’t accomplish everything.  Look at the list and decide how to divide the work so that everything can be done accurately and have a polished professional finish.

* Interruptions are almost guaranteed to occur throughout the day which is why “batching” your time is an excellent idea (return the previous day’s late afternoon phone calls from 7:00 a.m – 8:00 am; initiate/respond to emails 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., and so on).  Batching allows for interruptions without interfering with how you’ve prioritized daily tasks.

Eliminate non-essential activity so that you can work efficiently and smartly.  According to Professor Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back to a task after an interruption.  After so many of those 23-minute interruptions, your day could pass by and you may not realize it until it is too late.  So…focus on the priorities…you’ll be glad you did.

Make it a great day!

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