More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Time management: Tips to reduce stress and improve productivity
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Aug 25, 2006

Effective time management is a primary means to a less stressful life. These practices can help you reduce your stress and reclaim your personal life.
Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of projects you have at work or the depth of these projects? Do you feel the day flies by without your devoting the necessary attention to each assignment because other tasks keep landing on your desk, or because you can't get it all organized?

You probably know that effective time management will help you get more done each day. It has important health benefits, too. By managing your time more wisely, you can minimize stress and improve your quality of life.

But how do you get back on track when organizational skills don't come naturally? To get started, choose one of these tips, try it for two to four weeks and see if it helps. If it does, consider adding another one. If not, try a different one.

  • Plan each day. Planning your day can help you feel more in control of you life. Write a to-do list, putting the most important tasks at the top. Keep a schedule of your daily activities to minimize conflicts and last-minute rushes.
  • Prioritize your tasks. Like many people, you may be spending the majority of your time on a small percentage of your tasks. Prioritizing will ensure you spend your time and energy on those that are truly important to you.
  • Say no to nonessential tasks. Consider your goals and schedule before agreeing to take on additional work.
  • Delegate. Take a look at your to-do list and consider what you can eliminate or pass on to someone else.
  • Take the time you need to do a quality job. Doing work right the first time may take more time upfront, but errors usually result in time spent making corrections, which takes more time overall.
  • Break large, time-consuming tasks into smaller tasks. Work on them a few minutes at a time until you get them all done.
  • Practice the 10-minute rule. Work on a dreaded task for 10 minutes each day. Once you get started, you may find you can finish it.
  • Evaluate how you're spending your time. Keep a diary of everything you do for three days to determine how you're spending your time. Look for time that can be used more wisely. For example, could you take a bus or train to work and use the commute to catch up on reading? If so, you could free up some time to exercise or spend with family or friends.
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise. Improved focus and concentration will help improve your efficiency so that you can complete your work in less time.
  • Take a time management course. If your employer offers continuing education, take a time management class. If your workplace doesn't have one, find out if a local community college, university or community education program does.
  • Take a break when needed. Too much stress can derail your attempts at getting organized. When you need a break, take one. Take a walk. Do some quick stretches at your workstation. Take a day of vacation.
Ask for help
If you're too frazzled to think about trying any of these tips, it's time to ask for help. Does your life feel totally out of control? If so, contact your employee assistance program (EAP) at your workplace for assistance, or discuss your situation with your doctor.
I really dont know how people manage to work and have a social life and familly, I dont work and have enough problems just trying to fit everything in each day, looking after my flat and doing shopping, reading, watching dvds, filling in forms and writing letters, coming on here, taking care of my birds, cooking/cleaning , there always seems something to do, and I try to plan but things dont always work, the thought of fitting in a job just freaks me out, there wouldnt be enough time, when I have gone to work Ive got ill everytime because its all been too much and Ive ended up not going to bed or getting very little sleep so I could fit it all in.

Daniel E.
I have had similar problems, but, on the positive side, there is a new level of efficiency with portable entertainment devices, e.g. MP3 players and portable DVD players. One can watch DVDs while eating lunch at work and listen to audio programs while doing the dishes at home.

When I was working 40+ hours a week, the house was usually a mess (which was fine with me) and I would get a lot of take out rather than shop and cook. Though I would forget to pay some bills, automatic bill paying is a godsend.

Anyway, a lot of people who "work" 40 hours a week only do about 32 hours of work, with much of the remaining time surfing the net, talking to co-workers, etc.
i find that working full time and trying to take care of a family and run the household is impossible. i tried, and tried for too long, with very serious consequences. prioritize, that's the key, and forget about the rest. there is only so much a person can do in the course of a day.


I guess I am the opposite because the more work and tasks that I can cram into my day the better I like it, but then again this is probably because I use it as more of an escape to not have to think or focus on myself and what I am feeling or thinking. I guess this would explain why I have two jobs :eek:
daniel, thank you so much for that link, very interesting and lots to consider there. i find that my energy levels hugely affect how my day goes and what i can accomplish. great ideas at that site on how to possibly manage the different types of energy.


I strongly recommend reading:
1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
2. First Things First.

Both are written by Stephen Covey who provides a comprehensive theory for time management, personal development, and life management in general.


I think this tip will help you. Auto-loop

This a loop based on auto suggestion. You know all thinking is based on auto suggestion.
" Past is gone- I live in HERE and NOW. my life is HERE AND NOW.
Future is gone-I live in HERE and NOW. my life is HERE AND NOW.
I enjoy of HERE and NOW.

...and unconscious a passing thought must be " The moment of NOW is only real. In reality there is no such things like past / memories / or future/ self created images-mental pictures. All my life is only in now.
I wish you all the best.

Daniel E.
Six Time Management Tools from Julie Morgenstern

Tool# 3: The 4 D’s. If you can’t do a task, you have four alternatives, which Morgenstern calls the “4 D’s”:
  1. Delete. Just because something isn’t worth doing now doesn’t mean it’s worth doing later. Many things aren’t worth doing at all. Don’t create schedule clutter by postponing unqualified activities. Get rid of them
  2. Delay. Consciously deferring lower-priority tasks isn’t procrastination; it’s triage. Procrastination is avoiding making decisions on when or if to do something, where “later” becomes default by definition
  3. Delegate. Enlist the help of others: employees, family members or friends. Many hands make light work. Sometimes resistance to delegation stems from an underdeveloped or overdeveloped ego, but often it’s simply the lack of a trusted technique of tracking external dependencies with a Waiting For list.
  4. Diminish. Exercise your “enough” muscle, and reexamine the assumption that more is better. A five-sentence email might accomplish 90 percent of what a five-paragraph email would. Shorter meetings might better leverage shorter attention spans. Identify the point of diminishing returns before investing unwarranted time and effort

Daniel E.
An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day
by Peter Bregman, Harvard Business Review Blog Network
July 20, 2009

...Yesterday started with the best of intentions. I walked into my office in the morning with a vague sense of what I wanted to accomplish. Then I sat down, turned on my computer, and checked my email. Two hours later, after fighting several fires, solving other people's problems, and dealing with whatever happened to be thrown at me through my computer and phone, I could hardly remember what I had set out to accomplish when I first turned on my computer. I'd been ambushed. And I know better.

When I teach time management, I always start with the same question: How many of you have too much time and not enough to do in it? In ten years, no one has ever raised a hand.

That means we start every day knowing we're not going to get it all done. So how we spend our time is a key strategic decision. That's why it's a good idea to create a to do list and an ignore list. The hardest attention to focus is our own.

But even with those lists, the challenge, as always, is execution. How can you stick to a plan when so many things threaten to derail it? How can you focus on a few important things when so many things require your attention?

We need a trick.

Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru, knows all about tricks; he's famous for handcuffing himself and then swimming a mile or more while towing large boats filled with people. But he's more than just a showman. He invented several exercise machines including the ones with pulleys and weight selectors in health clubs throughout the world. And his show, The Jack LaLanne Show, was the longest running television fitness program, on the air for 34 years.

But none of that is what impresses me. He has one trick that I believe is his real secret power.


At the age of 94, he still spends the first two hours of his day exercising. Ninety minutes lifting weights and 30 minutes swimming or walking. Every morning. He needs to do so to achieve his goals: on his 95th birthday he plans to swim from the coast of California to Santa Catalina Island, a distance of 20 miles. Also, as he is fond of saying, "I cannot afford to die. It will ruin my image."

So he works, consistently and deliberately, toward his goals. He does the same things day in and day out. He cares about his fitness and he's built it into his schedule.

Managing our time needs to become a ritual too. Not simply a list or a vague sense of our priorities. That's not consistent or deliberate. It needs to be an ongoing process we follow no matter what to keep us focused on our priorities throughout the day.

I think we can do it in three steps that take less than 18 minutes over an eight-hour workday.

STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you've been productive and successful? Write those things down.

Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe a study in which a group of women agreed to do a breast self-exam during a period of 30 days. 100% of those who said where and when they were going to do it completed the exam. Only 53% of the others did.

In another study, drug addicts in withdrawal (can you find a more stressed-out population?) agreed to write an essay before 5 p.m. on a certain day. 80% of those who said when and where they would write the essay completed it. None of the others did.

If you want to get something done, decide when and where you're going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.

STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don't let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It's simple.

This particular ritual may not help you swim the English Channel while towing a cruise ship with your hands tied together. But it may just help you leave the office feeling productive and successful.

And, at the end of the day, isn't that a higher priority?

Peter Bregman is a strategic advisor to CEOs and their leadership teams. His latest book is 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. To receive an email when he posts, click here.


The 18-minute plan is exactly what I need in my life right now Daniel! Thank you so much.

The thing is when I come to work, sometimes I feel so disorganized. I tend to lose focus. Even though I already use this time management software to monitor my work hours and reduce distractions, I think I should make a list of priorities before starting the work day.

Both these tricks should help me become more productive. Thanks again Daniel.
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