We all seem to be so busy these days - life seems to be one mad rush from the start of the day to the end, there are endless tasks to be done, jobs & projects to be moved along, meetings to attend, errands to run, chores and cooking to be done, email, phone calls and texts to handle, paperwork and numerous other routine things to be done. It can be overwhelming sometimes the common time-management systems and routines just don't seem applicable and to do lists at the end of the day seem longer than those you started with!

So what are we to do? Well what about throwing out the traditional systems and learning a more focused, yet at the same time free-flowing system that changes with the situation and doesn't make you feel obligated to do everything on your list. Throw out your schedule and you'll never feel guilty about not keeping it again. Does that mean you won't get things done? Of course not, in fact, if you learn to work effectively, you can simplify your time-management system, reduce stress, and at the same time accomplish more. Here's how:

1) Keep your schedule open
Stop scheduling everything - filling your day with things to-do just leaves you with too little time to do it all, and it allows no time for the inevitable unexpected things that always seem to come up. Instead, schedule as little as possible. Of course there will always be some things that need to be scheduled, but everything else should be left open. And in respect of what you do with that time just go with the flow, make sure that you identify and focus on the important things, and take them one thing at a time.

2) Go with the flow
So what do we mean by this? Basically you have to learn to adapt to each situation as it comes up, and respond appropriately - not as if it's an emergency, but just what is needed. Sometimes that means dealing with the important task you need to complete right now, sometimes that means handling an urgent situation that comes up, other times that means dealing with unexpected visitors or phone calls. There's no way to plan for the unexpected, so don't try. Just learn to deal with them as they come up, and figure out what's most important to deal with right now, and take everything in stride and deal with it calmly and appropriately.

3) Fewer, high-impact tasks
If you only do three things a day, and can then feel like you've accomplished something then that's good. So identify the important ones, write them down and focus on them - you'll obviously have to do other things but make sure that you get those three things done. Concentrate on them as much as possible, ignoring interruptions (like email!). Think of it as concentrating your productivity instead of spreading yourself out too thinly; focus on these few important tasks.

4) One task at a time
How do you ensure you get as much done as possible, by doing one thing at a time. It's easy to get caught up trying to do everything at once, making phone calls and sending emails while checking emails and writing, all at the same time. But in doing this it's hard to really accomplish anything. It's much more effective, and much less stressful, if you focus on just one thing at a time, get it done, and move on to the next thing. You'll be amazed at how much you get done this way.

5) Limit distractions
There are many ways to get busy and get distracted, they just create chaos and pull you in a thousand different directions. Instead, just go along one path and focus; limit your time browsing the Internet, checking email, making phone calls, etc. Shut off these distractions, clear them away, and focus. Get things done.

6) Reduce your commitments
Do you really need to be doing all of the things you are committed to, can you realistically achieve them? Consider reducing your commitments by being realistic and letting people know what you can actually achieve. They might not be happy about it, but you have to be realistic with them (and with yourself) and cutting back will release time on your schedule for the more important things.

7) Simplify your to-do list
Similarly, take a look at everything on your to-do list. First of all realising that the list will never be completely finished, as you will constantly be adding things to the list! Don't worry about getting it all done but do think about whether you really have time to do it all. If you can't then get out of some of the less important things and concentrate on the important ones.

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