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Time management is the bane of my existence. And from the conversations I’ve had with other small business executives, I understand that most of us feel the same way. We are busy people with working hours that extend long past 5 p.m. We have deadlines to meet, clients and board members to please and mountains of emails to answer. It can be difficult to properly manage one’s time, but over the years I’ve learned to weed out the following practices. By doing so, I’ve been able to breathe easier day-to-day.

1. Stop checking email every 12 seconds

This can be incredibly difficult, especially if you are waiting for an important email from a client. Fight the urge and instead try to designate specific hours to check your email, maybe three times per day—once in the morning, afternoon and right before you go home. Test this out for a day and see what happens; I bet your productivity will soar.

Another option is to use an email management system. I use SaneBox (I’m not getting paid to write this and have no connection to the company) and love how the program compartmentalizes my emails based on importance. At the end of the day, I can relax while checking the less urgent emails I missed during business hours.

2. Stop scheduling back-to-back meetings

You look at your calendar Monday morning only to realize that your week is completely filled with meetings. Instead of booking them back-to-back, schedule 10-minute breaks between each one. This pad time will account for meetings that go long and hopefully give you room to rest before your next brainstorming session.

3. Stop multitasking

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, the conscious brain is not able to do more than one thing at a time. Although I do think he’s correct, it can be awfully tempting to send an email while listening to a conference call. Or check Facebook while sitting in a meeting. Resist the urge and try to focus on one thing at a time. Do this and watch your to-do list dwindle at lightening speed.

4. Stop thinking that everything will take only 10 minutes

The business process can be a slow one, so try to pad the execution time of every project you start. Instead of thinking a press release will take an hour to write and another hour to go through the approval process, schedule a day (or two) for expected completion. The farther out you align your expectations, the happier you will be when the project is finished before deadline.

5. Stop working with blinders on

It can be so easy to get into work at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. only to then realize that you haven’t eaten all day—and, worse yet—haven’t completed the most relevant tasks on your list. I try to ask myself if I’m being productive several times per day. I will pause in the middle of a task and think, “Is this the best use of my time? Is this the best use of my client’s/employee’s time?” If the answer is no, I will realign my priorities to work on tasks more necessary to my business.

About Yaniv Masjedi

Yaniv Masjedi is the vice president of marketing at Nextiva (@Nextiva), a leading provider of cloud-based, unified communication services. In his role, Yaniv manages the firm's marketing and branding efforts by working to create strategies that drive awareness, strengthen the Nextiva brand and share the story of the company's unique customer-centric culture (dubbed "Amazing Service"). His responsibilities also include brand management, demand generation, advertising, marketing communications, nurturing programs and thought leadership. Prior to joining Nextiva, Yaniv led teams at IPOWER and the Endurance International Group. He studied political science and history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Keep up with Yaniv on Twitter @YanivMasjedi.

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  • sundaydriver

    Some of these things are what I am struggling about. So hard to control and I can’t stop checking my Facebook account, e-mail and twitter which consume much of my time. Doing the multitasking and not finishing any one of my works sometimes.

    Thanks for these advises, hope I can endure to apply it every minute.

    • Yaniv Masjedi

      Yes, it can be hard to stop checking email, Twitter and Facebook. Have you tried setting a timer for specific tasks? That simple action can help keep you on track.

  • http://roads-2-riches.com/ Bernard Z.

    Nice! I’m guilty of number one. I constantly checking my emails. The more I think about it, the more I realize that if you where to add up all the time I spend checking them in a given day it would add up to an hour or more.

    As for multitasking, I think if done right it can be beneficial. I have written an article that talks about how to do 5 things at once in relation to working online. It pretty much states doing research, taking notes, blog commenting, utilizing social media, and networking all at once. I do it all the time, and it helps.(I’m doing it now)

    Thanks for sharing your the things we need to stop doing. Sometimes we don’t notice that we are wasting our time and it helps if someone tells us.

    • Yaniv Masjedi

      Thanks, Bernard. It can be difficult to stay away from email, but it definitely helps with managing your time.

  • Laura K.

    Thank for these tips, they are all right on! I especially like “Not thinking everything will take 10 minutes”. I know someone who consistently underestimates how long everything will take to complete, and it is maddening. When you’re working on a project, you need to remember to include time for every aspect of it – research, writing, synthesizing information, approval, etc. I find that it helps to draw a simple outline to define each step. I also try not to check my email first thing in the morning, because that can derail me for an hour!

    • Yaniv Masjedi

      Isn’t it crazy how email can do that? Things always take longer than you think they will, so it is a good idea to structure your day not around checking your email, but around getting tasks done (and with ample pad time). Thanks, Laura!

  • Harry

    Yaniv – Excellent tips. My favorite is #3. It’s contrary to what many people falsely believe that doing 2 things at once will make them more productive.

    I would add one more to this list – Stop trying to do everything yourself. Learn to delegate and outsource non-essential tasks. It is only by focusing on value added activities will you be able to manage your time better.

    • Yaniv Masjedi

      Thanks for your comment, Harry. I agree with your addition to the list. The act of delegating is incredibly important and can really help with time management. (It is also an important thing to remember, especially for entrepreneurs who like to do it all.)

  • http://www.wineshopathome.com/fanniewilliams fannie’s wine shop at home .

    thank you for this information. it is simple, clear, and practical. in managing time we have to be careful that we don’t spend to much time reading useless material also. I appreciate your style of writing.

    • http://www.nextiva.com Yaniv Masjedi

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found this piece useful. I agree that we all have to be careful about what we read online to make sure we are using our time wisely.

    • Yaniv Masjedi

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found this piece useful. I agree that we all have to be careful about what we read online to make sure we are using our time wisely.

  • David Hennessy

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Yaniv. I need to start following your advice!