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Time management for those on information overload

“Time Is On My Side,” according to the Rolling Stones. But Mick and the boys didn’t have to contend with computers, iPhones, the Internet, Facebook and the general demands of living in a society where everyone expects an instant response to their query. If you really want to keep up with today’s world, good time management strategies are important. Following are a few I recommend.

• Write everything down.Don’t try to remember all your appointments, to-do’s, notes, lists, etc. Your brain can’t handle that kind of overload. At some point in your life, you may have been able to keep many things in your head, perhaps when you were younger or before the world exploded with information overload, but thinking about things more than once is a waste of time. Avoid mind overload and capture information in a system outside of your mind, then figure out how to act on it later.

• Use a portable device. Low-tech or high-tech, paper or electronic, it’s up to you. When you are out and about, inevitably someone will mention a book you want to read, or you’ll remember that you need to call your sister and wish her a happy birthday. You need a portable tool to capture all incoming information that you want to act on at another time.

• Create a complete to-do list. To ensure you capture all of your “I have tos” or “I need tos,” create a to-do list that is complete. Your list should contain everything you want to accomplish, from the most mundane “buy weed killer for the front yard” to the more complex “research contractors for the bathroom remodel.” Each day scan your complete list for items to accomplish, then create “daily action” to-do lists.

Use your to-do list in conjunction with your calendar by making appointments with yourself to accomplish particular tasks. Honor your own deadlines and don’t ignore appointments with yourself if you really want to get something done.

• Use timers. If you have trouble starting a project or you’re easily distracted by your own thoughts or interruptions from others, use a timer. Set it for 30 or 40 minutes, and apply that uninterrupted time to focus on a particular task. When the timer dings, decide you are finished or spend 20 minutes on a less-focused task like checking e-mail, returning a phone call or talking with a colleague. Then return to your focused project using the timer again.

Try these strategies and see if your day becomes less overwhelming and more productive.

Lori Krolik is founder of More Time For You, a company that provides organizing and time-management consulting services. For more information, visit www.moretimeforyou.net.

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