By Clare Gurton

Are you hopelessly busy all day yet frustrated by how little you have achieved at the end of the day?

You could improve productivity by using a few simple time management tricks and tools. Planning your time efficiently allows you to spread your work evenly over the day, avoid ‘traffic jams’ or bunching of jobs, and to cope with stress.

Here are some time-tested ideas:

Log your current activities to see obvious areas for improvement
A good place to start is to look at how you spend your time now. Keep a log for a week and note everything you do during the working day and how long it takes you. You will immediately see areas that could be improved. At the same time try to record how you are feeling during the day such as times of tiredness, discomfort, or high energy. This should help you realise your natural rhythms and when you need a break for food, or simply a change of pace. Use this log to help plan future working days.

Write a ‘must do’ list and prioritise your work
A prioritised ‘must do’ list will help you organise yourself and reduce stress. Try to break down each job and only give yourself a short list to work on at any one time.

Use time slots wisely
Each day there may be long and short time slots; slots that are less than one hour may be more useful for reviewing and previewing tasks; slots of between one and three hours can allow concentrated effort on more detailed assignments such as report writing. Try to use time slots alongside your ‘must do’ list so that you use your different time slots for suitable activities; a well used 15 minutes is more effective than a wasted two hours.

Break difficult or boring work into sections
Don’t try to write a long report, manuscript, or plan in one session – write it section by section.

Go easy on yourself
If you are struggling with one particular task put it down and go to the next thing. If you are losing direction, take a break and allow yourself some quiet thinking time.