“I ran out of time.” How many times have we said this or heard this from others? I hear many coaching professionals teaching time management. I believe managing time is impossible, however managing what Brian does with his time is something within my control. I will share a few things that have been great resources for me to make better use of my time. Improving efficiency is a great way to use my time wisely.

The To-Do List:

Most productive individuals understand the importance of creating a list of the things they want to accomplish. This is a time-tested principle that is a great motivator to check things off as they are completed. To-do list should be developed on a frequency that works for you. In fact, you might have a few different to-do lists, one for daily items to complete that is detailed by the hour, a weekly to-do list that is broader and highlights the agenda by the day of the week and then monthly for a greater outlook on what should be accomplished this month.

One of the biggest mistakes of a to-do list is that it is too ambitious, this is why it is overwhelming and many times you feel defeated because you did not accomplish everything on your to-do list. Start small and learn how to manage yourself for improving efficiency. You should intentionally leave open space for self-care and things that arise that aren’t part of your list.

Setting Priorities:

Now that your list(s) are complete, begin to prioritize your to-do list by what has to be completed first and what is a lower priority that if missed isn’t a showstopper. Setting your priorities and sticking to them is one of the most important techniques for improving efficiency. Too often newly appointed managers allow other’s priorities to take the place of their own. Don’t fall prey to this trap.

Appointments are things that should be blocked out in your schedule so that you are present and prepared to make the best use of time. I like to leave a small opening on either side of an appointment to allow for overruns or debriefing. Setting yourself up with back-to-back appointments is a great way to create undue stress.

Now create a numbering or color code system to give yourself a visual reference of the priority of each item on the list. Numbering or color coding will allow you to add items without having to change the sequence order of the list and helps bring attention to the priorities you have set.improving efficiency

Time Blocking:

Now that you have a prioritized to-do list, create an allowance of time for each item. When you first begin utilizing time blocking you may be guessing at the time allowance of each item, but as you learn to time block with more precision you will understand the power of this technique.

As an example, let’s say you have decided to prioritize 30 minutes of your morning to review and respond to emails between 9:00 and 9:30 am. This is a 30-minute time block. You also have an appointment with a new client from 10:00 to 10:30 am on the same day. The client text and request that you move the appointment up to 9:00 am there is now a conflict, however as a time blocking professional you glance at your prioritized to do list and see that you can exchange this 30-minute time block and complete both items as planned.

I have time blocked portions of my week on the same day and time for consistency allowing a block of time for a specific activity. I never seem to find time, when I play hide and seek with time, time always wins. I have to plan my time to be efficient. Time blocking is a great technique to plan and make the best use of my time. Learn more about time blocking and strategies here.

Remove or Reduce Distractions:

Many of the improvements in technology have been amazing tools for improving efficiency. However, some of these same tools can be a major distraction to meeting your objectives. They are a double-edged sword allowing us to be responsive on a moments notice and completely taking us off task for unplanned and often unproductive waste of time. Removing or reducing distractions can be another item to time block.

Create uninterrupted time in your day, week or month where you do not have the constant distraction of your telephone, computer or anything else that distracts you from meeting your goals and being effective with your time. This applies to your professional life and your personal life. Time block time to be with and enjoy your loved ones without distractions.

Time is a precious irreplaceable resource, it is limited for each one of us and we need to be better stewards of our time. Writing this article has reminded me of some areas I can improve upon, things I know to do and need to work more diligently on. Let’s grow together.