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Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol.6, No.3.
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How many times have you thought, "Man, it's time to go home and I didn't get everything done." Or worse, "I'll have to stay late and finish up." The main reason this happens is that other people pre-empt your time. Sometimes it's your boss, but often it's a colleague. Either way, there are things you can do to gain back control of your working time. Here are some examples:

Set the next-day's priorities before you leave at night. Make your to-do list while everything is fresh in your mind. It is far more efficient than waiting until the next morning. When you arrive in the morning, your action plan is written out and waiting.

Check priorities with your boss. When your boss wants you to do something, ask one simple question: I'm working on such and such, which do you want me to do first?

Limit interruptions. We'd be amazed if we really knew how interruptions limit our productivity. But think about this: a coworker pops in to say good morning, and a simple greeting turns into a story about the kids, a TV show or last night's soccer game. Suddenly, ten minutes are gone. Now double that time because two people were involved. Eventually the morning topic will be how you're behind and can't catch up.

Schedule productivity. You have people you need to meet with regularly, including your boss. Suggest a specific time of day when you'd like to meet with your various people and that fifteen minutes (you'll need to be specific) should let you cover the subjects. If people are made aware of a time limit they'll more likely respect it. And remember last issue: prepare an agenda to keep you and the others focused.

Can you do this with your boss? He'll probably admire you for it. But you might want to let him or her suggest the time, rather than vice versa.

Thorough assignments. Whether giving or receiving an assignment, keep these time-savers in mind. If you ask questions (or provide clear direction) you'll be miles ahead. For example: What is the deadline? What is the scope of the work? Exactly what is expected? Should there be an interim review or progress meeting? What background information is there? Is there an example to follow? How will the work be used? What is the expected end result?

As you carefully define the requirements, the assignment frequently takes a different shape. And better to know before hand, than after.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you'll make a big step toward recapturing control of your time--your single most valuable asset.

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