Jan Yager, Ph.D.
5 TOP TIME WASTERS*
By Jan Yager, Ph.D.
The key to having more time for yourself—and everything and everyone you care about—is effective time management. Here are the five biggest time gobblers and the best ways to control them:

1.TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE. Set priorities. Decide on the single most important task to do at any one moment. Create clear, specific goals for each day or even each hour—writing them down, if necessary, on a “to do” list with the most important at the top and going down from there. Do not go on to the second job (or goal) until you have completed the first.

2. TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF. Learn to delegate. If necessary, hire additional help at work: full-time, part-time, freelancers, even an unpaid intern. At home, ask for help from your spouse or children. If you can afford it, hire weekly or one-time help. Delegating caution: You still have to make sure a task is completed to your standards even if you are not doing the actual work.

3. BEING RELUCTANT TO SAY “NO.” Decide what you want to do and realistically can do and then say “no” to everything else. (It is often accepted much more easily than you think.) To make it easier, write “No” in big letters and put it near the phone or on your desk. Suggest someone else who could do the job or a time down the road when you might want to say "yes".

4. LETTING THE TELEPHONE INTERRUPT YOU. Instead of being at the whim of callers, make the phone work for you.

  • Use an answering machine to screen incoming calls. Return calls at your convenience.
  • Use a cordless phone, or, as long as others do not mind, a speakerphone, so you can do other tasks while you are talking on the phone.
  • Let your friends and business associates know that you have a “telephone hour” when you prefer to receive calls.
  • Learn to say, “I can’t talk right now. Can I call you back?” Set aside time (an hour in the morning for work calls or in the evening for personal calls) to return calls all at once.
  • Limit waiting “on hold” to three minutes—unless the call is really important.
  • Use your time on the phone, especially if you are placed on hold, to do other things: open your mail, pay bills, prepare a meal, even exercise --keep a small arm weight next to the phone to do arm or leg lifts on the floor.
  • When you leave a message, try to give a specific time for someone to call you back so you avoid telephone tag as much as possible.

5. PUTTING THINGS OFF. Use the energy you spend putting off an unpleasant task to get it done and off your mind. Make it the day’s priority or the first thing you tackle. Divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Use the reward system and reward yourself as you complete each narrower task. Decide in advance how you will reward yourself when you complete the entire necessary task.

This article is edited and reprinted from Redbook, where it originally appeared in August 1990, by permission of its author and copyright owner Dr. Jan Yager. It may be reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as credit is given to its author, original place of publication, and the following information appears: Dr. Jan Yager is a consultant, speaker, and author on time management and business protocol. On the web: http://www.JanYager.com, Address: 1127 High Ridge Road, #110, Stamford, CT 06905 (203) 968-8098 E-mail: jyager@aol.com. For additional tips on time management, consult Dr. Yager's book, Creative Time Management for the New Millennium, 2nd edition, revised and updated (Hannacroix Creek Books, 1999) $14.95 trade paperback, 160 pages, ISBN 1-889262-20-X.  For credit card orders, call, toll-free, 1-800-431-1579.

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