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Seven Strategies to Regain Control of Your Day

Body+Soul, October 2006

"Simplifying your schedule is a matter of living in a way that reflects your life's natural rhythm," says Edward Hallowell, M.D., former Harvard Medical School instructor and author of "CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked", and "About to Snap: Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD." With his help, we've identified seven ways to address the time crunch.

Don't multitask.
It's one thing to listen to NPR while you wash dishes. But when it comes to the important things (tweaking your business plan; writing a heartfelt letter), it never pays to split your focus. Rather than spread your attention thin, aim to do one thing at a time, directing your concentration to the moment.

Keep to-do lists short.
Hallowell suggests cutting the litany down to five items a day. Start with the most time-sensitive tasks, and put the rest on another piece of paper for another time. Once you've completed the daily five, resist the temptation to get a head start on tomorrow's list. Instead, call it a day.

Delegate.
Give away the jobs you don't like or don't want to do. Ask for help, make a trade ("I'll balance the checkbook if you mow the lawn"), or leave cleaning, yard work, or taxes to the professionals, rather than trying to do it all yourself.

Be positive.
The more fearful or anxious you feel, the less capable you are of doing your best work -- and the longer you'll take. Set aside chunks of time to do what sustains your joy. You'll find you reap the rewards later.

Limit interruptions.
Create specific times to return calls and e-mails so that they don't break your focus throughout the day. Encourage colleagues or clients to call you during specific hours, rather than being accessible 24/7. Let voice mail get personal calls if you're not ready to devote meaningful time to the caller.

See organization as a means, not an end.
Organizing is like dieting, says Hallowell: Everyone wants to do it, few actually do, and those who succeed often revert to their former ways. Rather than focus on organization for its own sake, do just enough to keep order -- and save time you'd otherwise waste trying to find things.

Don't lose sleep over it.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking you'll get more accomplished by staying up late. Sacrificing sleep can wreak havoc on your brain's peak performance. When you're tired, you'll have a harder time focusing and seeing projects through. Bottom line: Sleep isn't optional, and you don't get ahead by skimping on it.

Text by Terri Trespicio

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