Wise up and beat the clock

The chill-out zone

Use what's left of the holidays to outwit the time bandits, says Jurgen Wolff

* Have two or three of everything. How much time do you waste looking for staplers, scissors, keys, glasses, and so on? The ideal is "a place for everything and everything in its place" but, for the less organised among us, having a set of whatever you're likely to need in several locations is more realistic.

* Use lists. When you have time, make up lists of items or procedures that you can tick off when you need them. For example, I have a travel list with about 50 items on it. Before I go away, I go through the list, crossing off anything not needed for that trip, and then collect and pack the rest.

* Do dreaded tasks in small chunks. If there is something you are avoiding,work out how to do one minute's worth of it per day. If there is a phone call you don't want to make (but have to), for example, on day one write down the number. On day two, jot down the points you need to cover in the conversation. On day three, dial the number but hang up before they answer. On day four, make that call...

* Remember that your time is valuable. There are people who will go to the Post Office to get a first-class stamp because they have only two second-class stamps left and don't want to waste a few pence. Daft.

* Ask yourself whether a task is really necessary, whether it can be lumped together with others, and whether you can delegate it to someone else. Having your children do things you'd rather not do is character-building for them and pleasant for you.

* Beware of telephone vampires. Are there people in your life who suck you dry with long phone calls? Be ready with a time limiter ("I do have to go out in five minutes, but go ahead...") or make a pre-emptive strike and call them before they can call you. It's much easier to sign off if you initiate the call.

* Send yourself reminders. If you use a computer with an alarm facility, these messages might remind you to take a brief break, back up your files, or make a phone call. You could also send yourself the question,"What is the best use of my time right now?"

Next time: Do Something Different! Jurgen Wolff is a hypnotherapist and writer. His most recent book is 'Do Something Different', published by Virgin Business Guides. His free monthly creativity e-bulletin, Brainstorm, is available from BstormUK@aol.com

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