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In today's fast-paced environment, distractions come in multiple layers.  I talk with leaders often that complain that there seems to be a lack of time to get everything accomplished.  When I begin my series of questions, I find that the problem is not time - there is the same amount of time in a day that there has always been.  The problem is the way the time is spent.  I've told many leaders, "You can't manage time. You have to manage you!" Time is the new currency in that it has value just like money.  Spending it wisely, or foolishly, can have an enormous effect on your level of success.  Whether you are a CEO, a mid-level manager, one that works on the front line, a student, or a stay-at-home mom, you have the same amount of time each day.  What I find is that good leaders reduce the distractions that rob them of their productivity.  They eliminate those distractions and focus on a small amount of activities that produce the greatest amount of impact.  Below you will find four huge time wasters.  Eliminate, or at least reduce them, and you will experience an increase in your efforts and productivity.

#1 Failing to set priorities

How you see your time is evidenced by how you spend it.  Just as you can tell about a person's priorities by how they spend money, you can tell the same about how they spend time.  Setting priorities is a part of life.  You will find time to do those things that are important to you.  Setting those priorities is a crucial component of effective time-management.  Without a list of priorities, for the day or week, every problem becomes a distraction and pulls you away from the more important issues that you need to be handling, which leads to the second big time-waster. In fact, time is usually wasted in the same way each day.  Therefore, execute around priorities.

#2 Doing a task that can be handled by someone else with less responsibility

Some may deem this as delegating.  However, setting priorities is a part of proper planning.  Focusing on tasks that can be completed by others wastes time and distracts you from the more important tasks.  If those tasks are less important for you, your skill set does not need to be wasted toward working on them.  You are therefore lessening your value.  Assign tasks to others in the planning stages or choose those daily that are most important and suited for your level.  Let go of your need for control.

#3 Tolerating too many interruptions

Each day, we are faced with a variety of situations.  Most of these are menial tasks that can be deferred to a later time.  Such situations are nothing more than interruptions for you.  Setting certain times aside for working on a particular project or idea is an important part of eliminating, or at least reducing, such distractions.  Based on your situation, find the best way to eliminate them.  I tell leaders that setting guidelines, such as a closed door, means that you do not need to be disturbed.  Schedule you time so that you can devote your time to a particular project or a decision.  The beauty of watching a master at work is often found in watching how skillfully he keeps distractions from knocking him off track.

#4 Working without a plan

This seems like a no-brainer.  However, it is surprising how many leaders and managers report having no plan for the day.  In such cases, they are open to anything that may happen and controlled instead of controlling.  Again, what is important to you becomes a priority.  Such priorities should fill your time.  Therefore, planning your work allows you to work you plan.  Without a plan you simply repeat yesterday knowing that yesterday was not successful.

Planning your work allows you to work your plan.

If you want to build your dreams of tomorrow, you have to be honest with the reality of today.  The difference between the self-made president and the self-made pauper can probably be found in how each person uses his or her equally allotted time.  Never having time to take a vacation is not a badge of honor as much as it is a mark of ineffective time management. Executing moves you forward.  It's impossible to effectively execute without proper planning.  Effective planning is effective time-management.  You have only one chance to spend your time; do it wisely.

How do you manage your time each day? 

What strategies do you have that reduce or eliminate distractions?

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