The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot.

Vinay Mitra* got up as usual at 7 am, got dressed for work and reached the office just as his watch ticked 9, happy to have beaten the traffic for once. His boss was surprised to see him and gesticulated from his cabin, asking what he was doing at work. Suddenly Vinay realised to his horror that he was supposed to represent his company at the NASSCOM summit in Bangalore that day. He had completely forgotten about it.
The boss was not going to be pleased. This was the second time in the month that Vinay had messed up, after having forgotten an important client presentation just last week. Vinay groans, "But what am I supposed to do? There is always so much work to complete, several unscheduled meetings with the boss and my colleagues, and then there are these slow team members who only add to my woes. I have no clue what tasks will show up next minute and the day is over before I realise it!"

Do these situations ring an unpleasant bell?
Feel like there's too much work and very little time?
Have forgotten meetings, missed deadlines or late project deliverables?
Stressed and burnt out?
Have difficulty sleeping because you keep thinking of incomplete tasks?
Want to note down something important but can't find the elusive planner in the stack of paper, files and other sundry stuff on your table?
Whether you are a rising teamleader, a hassled manager, self-employed or an ultra-busy executive, here are a few tips to help you manage your time for a simpler, more organised and peaceful life.
Identify your time stealers and minimise them
Unorganised tasks
Weak delegation
Unplanned meetings
Passage chit chat
Multiple tea/ coffee breaks
Restroom chatter
Cigarette breaks
Wasting time waiting for others
Unnecessary trips to the printer
Indecision and procrastination
Tools to manage time

~ To-do lists
You can have a daily to-do list and also a master to-do list that helps you track your ongoing tasks that do not find any place in your daily to-do lists.
Bhanu Ranjith, project manager, is a committed enthusiast of to-do lists. "It's really imperative for me to manage my scheduled tasks and my time, especially with lots of dynamic things happening on a daily basis. Here's how I embark upon my day:
Morning first thing, I check my emails and figure out the most critical tasks.
Spend some time in sorting the tasks on a priority basis.
Stick to this list and try to close as many items as I can, one by one. At times, a task cannot be completed at one shot, due to various dependencies. So, I re-look at my list later in the day.
Knock off from the list all the tasks I have completed. (Gives me great joy!)
If some tasks cannot be completed on that same day, I send a status of the tasks to the relevant stakeholders and inform them about the closure time and date."
Looks like we can all take a leaf out of his to-do list, what say?
~ MS Outlook
You can view your schedule using any of these views: month, week or day. Outlook provides various features like e-mail, calendar, tasks, contacts, journal, notes and folder lists to help you plan your time. You can also create your very own calendar by using MS Word. Customise the template, make multiple copies and bind them.
~ Paper calendar
You can use the month view for an overview of the entire month. The week view will help if you have lots of meetings/ appointments and also need to maintain notes or mark out the events right in front of you.
~ Electronic planner
Many people these days are increasingly using their mobiles/ organisers/ palmtops as their personal assistants. Payal Neeraj* couldn't agree more, "In fact, mobiles are so handy that these days my loyal friend reminds me of my 4 pm meeting everyday. My colleagues no longer crib at having to constantly send me reminder text messages!"
~ A-Z tabs
These are a huge help in saving and tracking addresses, phone numbers, instant messaging addresses etc. You can again customise these by making small notes against the names of the people with whom you interact frequently.
You can have a separate planner to keep in mind your goals, values, books to read, movies to watch or buy, things to purchase, shares to invest in, birthday and anniversary reminders. Though the uses can be multiple, the purpose is singular -- to keep mess out of your life, and open the doors for organised schedules and reminders so that you don't miss anything important that may cause you regrets later on.

Lead graphic designer Nayan Shah*can't help but smile as she says, "I am so absentminded I forget where I put my glasses, even though they are sitting pretty on my head all the time. With two children in school, I invariably tended to miss their school meetings and events. I had to start carrying my planner everywhere with me. Now, my kids think I am the best mom in the world."
Some tips to manage your time better
Plan your tomorrow, today: Reduce the mess and disorder around you and most importantly, in your mind. It takes you 10 minutes to jot down your tasks, but will save you lot of trouble, time and embarrassment in case you forget something important.
Focus on time and effect coordinates: Record the time taken by your usual tasks everyday. Do not forget to log time honestly for all the breaks you have taken during the day.
Review your to-do list regularly: Study your planner after a week of recording time spent on your everyday activities.
Say no to unplanned, impromptu work: It can be difficult to say no, but it is necessary if you want to complete your scheduled tasks. Being a do-gooder doesn't always reap rewards. It mostly makes your days longer and more tiring!
Don't bite off more than you can chew: Do not clutter your calendar with things that are not important. Do not over plan and end up doing only half of the scheduled tasks.
Follow the 80:20 principle: Make sure at least 20 per cent of tasks deliver 80 per cent results.
Make lists based on the urgency of tasks. Such as: Pending, Urgent, Important, Urgent and important
Decide the start and cutoff time for tasks: Estimate the time you will take to complete a task and stick to it.
An old saying aptly highlights the importance of time management: "Lost wealth may be replaced by hard work, lost knowledge by study, lost health by care and medicine, but lost time is gone forever!" So use your time wisely!

Prashant Iyer

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