Man standing on hands of clock

Most of us wish we could create a few more hours in the day to allow all of our work to be carried out and still have some free time at the end of it. With the demands of home-life, external factors working their way into the mix, increasing workloads and fierce competition, this may seem nigh on impossible, particularly for those who work from home or run a small business. If you wish to keep your sanity intact, maintain your business, pay your bills, get your necessary sleep and still have some essence of a social life you must learn to become smarter, wiser and more efficient with your time-management, rather than running yourself into the ground and living only for work.

Planning your objectives

By identifying the objectives you wish to achieve, you will have a clear idea of what it is you need to do. It may sound obvious, but many people simply do not know how to do this; rather they plod on with no direction and no plan. Set objectives that are achievable and measurable within the time-scale you give yourself. They must be realistic; otherwise you will feel like you have failed when you don’t achieve what you set out to do in the time you set aside for the task.

Make a list of what you need to do or draw up a timetable for each day, week, month etc. Prioritise these tasks or goals and identify the steps required to achieve them. This will help you to reduce the amount of stress you encounter because you will have a clear action plan of what you want to do, when you will do it and how you will do it. It is still important to be able to work under pressure and it is unlikely you will ever remove all elements of stress from your work life, but you must learn to work effectively under pressure – often a little bit of stress can go in our favour; spurring us on when we begin to flag and helping us stick to deadlines.

Stay focused

Easier said than done. But you really must remain focused if you want to be more efficient with your time. This can be achieved by implementing the planning stage we have already discussed. Simply making a list and being able to physically see your objectives written out can help you to focus. Without a plan, your mind can jump from one thing to the next before you have reached completion of the task in hand. Focus on urgent and important tasks ahead of those that will not get you closer to your goals – these can wait until another time. Provided the task you are focused on holds priority over your other tasks, try to see it through – even if it is tedious and boring – before moving onto your next activity.


Most of us work better with a schedule and some form of routine in our lives. This doesn’t mean to say we must have a strict itinerary for every waking moment of our existence but it does create a sense of structure, helping us to manage our day-to-day activities in a timely, achievable fashion. Any routine will undoubtedly face interruption at some point; that’s just life, but we are better equipped to deal with these contingencies if we already have a routine to measure against. Otherwise, you will end up frazzled, stressed, and confused, wondering what on earth you are going to do when your non-routine becomes even more disorganised.

Perseverance and dedication

Organisation - Crucial for small businessWe’ve all felt like we want to give up on something because it is too difficult. Sometimes certain things are completely unachievable, but this is why you plan, focus and organise attainable goals in a realistic timeframe. When you feel like you want to give up, avoid procrastination by taking a moment to look over your list of objectives or timetable to remind yourself what you are working towards and why you want to achieve these goals. Long-term gain requires both short- and long-term dedication. The task you are currently working on that may be causing you to flounder is just one component of your overall game plan. Unfortunately, the best things usually require a lot more work and dedication, so just try to remember the big picture and the possible rewards when you achieve your objectives.


This may not be possible for some people, but if you are able to assign tasks to other people, thus allowing you to focus on more important things that you are required to do, you will relieve some of the pressure and free up some valuable time. This applies not only to your work life, but your home life also. Don’t try to take on everything yourself just to prove a point. This will simply lead to poor results because you will have too much to do and not enough time to do it. This is counter-productive and often avoidable with a little forethought and organisation.

Take breaks

Ironically, taking time out for regular breaks can help you to achieve more in less time. Our cognitive ability becomes impaired and begins to slow down when we are overworked. Continuously working on something for hours on end without taking a break causes your brain to stop functioning effectively – you cannot understand or process information as easily and your ability to recall and think logically becomes increasingly difficult.

Sitting or being on our feet for long periods of time also has a negative physiological impact that often results in our bodies becoming tired, sluggish and achy. Give your brain and body a rest at regular intervals by getting up (or sitting down, depending on how you normally work) and making yourself a cup of tea or coffee, keep hydrated with water or juice, eat sensible food that will slowly release energy (i.e. not a massive chocolate bar), stretch your legs by getting out in the fresh air for a quick walk. This will energise you, helping you to stay alert and focused. Your brain will have had time to switch off and rest, and you will be better equipped to continue your tasks efficiently thereafter.

This article originally appeared on Rapid Formations Blog and has been republished with permission.

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