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Four tips for the time-crunched to get your act in gear

Each week starts with the hope we'll be more efficient and productive, as we struggle against the headwinds that always seem to be battering us. Here are some tips for making extra progress this week and down the road:

Have more than one to-do list

Careers writer Penelope Trunk says that most of the time, management advice stinks because it is developed by men who write about time management while their wives are at home taking care of the kids. An example is the single to-do list, which she considers a sign you are living in denial about the complexity of your life.

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She prefers multiple to-do lists which allow her to address the multiple aspects of her life. "It's more complicated to look at, for sure, but it's hard to have a secure feeling that I'm taking care of multiple facets of life if I do not see multiple plans written out. And that, really, is what a to-do list is – a plan to get what I want from that part of my life," she writes on her blog.

Slow down when taking notes

After being unable to read a potentially important note from a recent meeting he attended, Simon Fraser University manager Craig Changfoot shared on his blog the importance of slowing down and writing legibly when taking notes in your day's many meetings. Write two or three words that can serve as a trigger and then expand beyond that extra detail. If possible, review notes immediately after the meeting to see what clarifications might be needed.

Make a 'why list'

If some task keeps sticking to your to-do list without ever being completed, productivity blogger Jeff Doubek, on the Daytimer Blog, recommends a "why list."

Write down your stubborn task item and then list the reasons why you should take the next step to start the task. Make sure these include personal connections to the task, rather than putting the responsibility for having to do it on someone else. "Stuck for answers? Then, ask yourself what … it would take to feel ready to do the task, and then list reasons for doing [it]," he advises.

Multitasking you're not aware of

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By now we know it's not effective to multitask, even if we do it, out of habit or refusal to accept the growing evidence about multitasking's deficiencies. But entrepreneur James Altucher, on his blog, alerts us to some examples of multitasking we might not notice that are also detrimental.

First, time travel: Regretting the past or worrying about the future means you aren't focused on the present, and your mind is multitasking. Catch yourself when time travelling, and return your focus to the here and now.

Second, don't keep secrets: That's another form of multitasking, since you always have to remember what you can say and can't say with people. Finally, when you sip a coffee, he urges you not to read the newspaper. Just enjoy the coffee.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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