5 Steps to a More Efficient 2014

With the start of a new calendar year, many people think about how quickly the past year went by, and how often it seemed that there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done. If you’re one of those people, now’s the time to make a New Year’s resolution to make the most of your time in the year to come! There’s no doubt that focusing on learning time-saving skills like speed reading will help, because those skills let you get through your work more quickly. But there are other things that you can do to get organized and energized for each day and week ahead, and we’ve got five recommendations for you to follow in 2014:

Identify and set your priorities. Sometimes there are so many little things interrupting the day that we don’t get to the big things we meant to accomplish. Spend some time thinking about what your priorities are for the day, the week, the month, and the year. You might find it useful to map things out on a large one-sheet desk calendar for this exercise, using different colors for the different projects and goals. If you’ve got that calendar on your wall as a visual reminder that deadlines are approaching, you’ll find it easier to say “no” or “not now, sorry” to the smaller tasks that people ask you to do.

Be realistic. Stress and panic only lead to wasted time and inefficiency. When you’re looking at your schedule, think about how much time each task or project will take – and then increase that time by 50%. Most people underestimate when doing this part project planning, with the result that they’re trying to fit in too much in too few hours. The good news is that if you really have overestimated the time you need, that leaves you with free time!

Use reminders to keep on track. Day planners and other schedulers are essential if you want to stay focused and productive, and to-do lists are useful for many reasons. One reason for keeping lists and calendars is that you’ll get a sense of satisfaction when you can cross something off; another reason is that you’ll be less likely to forget things, or to spend time worrying that you’re going to forget things. Leave notes for yourself if you need to, and use built-in computer apps to automatically remind yourself of upcoming meetings or appointments.

Get the worst over with first. Sometimes we put things off as long as possible because the job’s unpleasant or boring or difficult. This year, focus on getting those tasks accomplished first, and you’ll find that the rest of the items on your list are a breeze.

Stick to your schedule. It’s hard to stay focused sometimes, but if you make a point of following the plans and priorities that you set at first, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, unexpected things will always come up, so make sure you don’t have every minute of the day accounted for. Leave a margin for the unexpected, whether that’s a last-minute request from your boss or a phone call from your best friend inviting you to dinner and a movie.