Everyone starts out each day with the same amount of time – some simply make better use of it than others.

Herbert Hoover wrote a book during the time he spent waiting in railroad stations. Noel Coward wrote the song, “I’ll See You Again,” while caught in a traffic jam. Take a look at how you are using your time. Poor time management is one of the most common causes of failure.

You can maintain a positive attitude toward the management of time by using every tactic you learn that will help manage your time better. The following 10 tips will offer some fresh ideas to help you use your time more efficiently.

1. Develop and defeat deadlines – Whenever you decide an activity is important, develop a plan of action to complete the task, yet not enough for procrastination. Make a game of completing each task just a little before the deadline.

2. Establish a deadline for completing a meeting – Setting a deadline for completing the work of a meeting keeps it from dragging on indefinitely. If you can’t cover business quickly, then someone is coming to the meeting poorly prepared. Begin each meeting by agreeing on a time limit for discussion of each item on the agenda. Then stick to the agreed deadline.

3. Handle tough tasks at your personal time – Everyone has a “best time” of the day. Know your own peak performance time, and plan to handle your most demanding tasks at these hours. Be aware that your peak time is not always the same as that of others with whom you work. Give some consideration to protecting their peak time as you do your own.

4. Learn to say no – When people ask you to take on projects or tasks that are outside your real interests or needs, they are putting a monkey on your back. If you agree to take on too many jobs for others, you are soon carrying such a load of monkeys that you can accomplish nothing. Say no. Say it graciously, say it politely, but say no!

5. Work during work hours – Habitual overtime work is not the mark of a successful person. Overtime is more often the result of poor time management skills that create the need to work extra hours. Give your full concentration to work during work hours. How much time you work does not count; the only criterion is how much you achieve.

6. Be decisive – Indecision, like procrastination, is a major time consumer. Medical research indicates that indecision causes physical disorders such as ulcers and heart attacks. Don’t fret if you occasionally make a poor decision. Correcting a poor decision is usually easier than making no decision at all. Identify unnecessary reports that come to you by asking, “what is the worst thing that could happen if I stopped receiving this?”

7. Delegate and follow up – Many people tend to do everything themselves because they believe that is the quickest and surest way to guarantee high-quality work. This attitude sounds commendable but is actually counterproductive. The more you delegate, the more time you have for creativity, for planning, and for achieving the top priority items on your to-do list. Put a dollar value on what you have to do; if it doesn’t add up in dollars and cents, don’t do it.

8. Acquire the pencil and paper habit – Don’t burden your mind with trying to remember all sorts of odd bits of information. Write them down. Whether the item is a quotation from a speech you hear, the phone number of someone you meet, or your best customer’s birthday, write it down. Put it in your reminder file where you will find it when you need it.

9. Keep an idea file – Keep a file to collect ideas that sound good to you. They come from things you read, speeches or lectures you hear, or conversations with customers or even strangers. File them under topical headings. When you have any kind of problem or decision to make, go to your idea file and see what is there to help you. This file can be kept on 3×5 cards or on your personal computer.

10. Make an appointment – You will be better organized when you make commitments in advance, and then keep them as scheduled. Frame out your day with appointments, if you can. This helps create good personal organization skills.

When you understand that time is life, and that you can control your day only be controlling time, the importance of good time management becomes apparent. Professionally, time is money; if you seek professional sales success, managing time properly is one of the best skills you can develop.

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