Contrary to what most people think—or allow—managing your time is not a democracy. We also don’t suffer from time deprivation because of other people’s incessant need for our attention.

There are three primary reasons we’re starved for time: We don’t know when to prioritize, how to prioritize, or how to maintain our priorities.

But, if you want an extra hour of time every day, I have some techniques that will provide immediate results.

Before you go all “I’ve heard this before,” I’m happy to grant many have written about such techniques. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and David Allen’s Getting Things Done are both brilliant pieces of work.

Oftentimes, however, reading a book and then attempting to apply fancy rules and processes becomes, well, tiring and ineffective. So, here’s my version on one tiny page.

Plan tomorrow at the end of today.

Nothing will make you sleep more peacefully than knowing your tomorrow is already planned, prioritized, and waiting for you when you arrive at work.

Do tomorrow’s plan before you “leave the office” today. That way, you get to actually plan your next day as opposed to literally or figuratively being hijacked by whomever gets an email into your inbox first.

In know you’ve heard this before, but are you actually doing it?

Use these three questions as your guide.

Your best thoughts and strategies come in the wake of asking yourself great questions. I suggest asking yourself these three (again, before you leave the office). Let them be your guide as you plan your next day or week or month or year or decade.

“What is important and urgent—to me?”

No matter what, any item, project, or task that is a yes to both parts of this question should be scheduled and preferably done first. Always know what’s important to you and never let that be at the mercy of something that’s not.

“What’s important to me, but not urgent?”

Ah, this is the longer-term important activity we tend to push and push and push. Don’t!! You can push it a wee bit, but the trick here is to schedule it and then know when you’ll actually do it.

Another alternative, one I use because of my vocation, is to allocate portions of each day to focus on mid- and long-term projects, relationship building, or whatever it might be for you.

“What’s important or urgent to someone else, but not to me?”

I realize people scream loudly when it’s important to them. Sometimes it’s your boss or coworker or customer. In most cases, even with your boss, you can negotiate these to a third priority.

The issue that plagues most of us, however, is this class of activities or requests typically derail your entire life. Be careful not to let them.

What about those activities that are neither important nor urgent?

If you’re wondering what to do with activities, don’t. Just dump them so you can focus on the other three.

Become a master at saying “No.”

You’re far more likely to regret the things you say yes to than the things you say no to.

Your time is given away because you said yes, not because someone asked for it. I realize it’s impractical in life to be a No-Pez-Dispenser. But, you can far better manage your time and priorities by learning to effectively say no.

Check out My Favorite 8 Ways to Politely Say “No.” Applying those techniques will likely save you several hours over the course of the month.

As always, I love to hear from you: What are your tricks to managing your time effectively?

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