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Carolyn CampbellTime on Your Side:
9 Ways to Take Control of the Clock

by Carolyn Campbell

What is your most valuable resource to build your career? While money and your product or service are vital, many experts and entrepreneurs agree that time is your most precious commodity. In business, minutes carry multiple demands; you can easily think of twenty tasks to fill each hour. Because time is a limited resource, it requires astute delegation. Managing your day is equally as crucial as budgeting your money. If you use your time successfully, you'll be able to oversee your business, market and promote your enterprise and eventually expand your business to reach the level of success of which you’ve always dreamed.

The following suggestions will help you take command of your most important investment--the time you spend today:

Organize your work space to streamline your operations. Since 1981, Bob Frare has managed his sales training company, Partner Selling Group, from a 10-by-10-foot office in his Albany, New York, home. "My office is the smallest, most highly organized space possible," Frare says. "I believe strongly in touching papers only once and keeping a specific place for them. I focus on one paper on my desk at a time. And when I'm finished, it goes in my file or in a large wastebasket beside me." Frare's favorite organizational tool is a cubbyhole system with separate slots for stationery, envelopes, client letters, invoices and receipts. "I used to spin around to look for my stationery and jump up three times for the envelope and stamps when I wrote a letter," Frare says. "Now everything is right in front of me, and I know when to order more supplies. When bills come in, I don't mess with them individually. They go in the slot for bills until my part-time bookkeeper comes in." Frare finds that keeping his office clutter-flee saves him time on each transaction, and customers frequently compliment him on his efficiency.

Create a list to keep track of tasks. A time-management expert and author of seven time-and business-management books, Jeffrey J. Mayer is also a consultant and speaker in Chicago. "As a reminder of tasks to complete, most people leave papers and Post-Its on their desks," says Mayer. "Instead of piles of papers, create a list of priorities. You can keep adding new items to the list and, when you finish something, scratch it off. Ask yourself, 'Which is the most important thing to do?' After you decide which task to pursue, instead of thinking about it, just do it."

Assign vital tasks to the "prime time" of your day. In his book, Time Management For Dummies, Mayer says that each person has peak times during the day when his or her energy and concentration are high. "During this time, it's possible for you to get twice as much done in half the time with half the effort," Mayer says. "During your prime time, give yourself two uninterrupted hours daily. Leave your answering machine on, turn off your beeper and don't read your e-mail. Do something important that will make you the most money." If you have a project that requires an hour to complete, make an appointment with yourself during your prime time and block that time out on your calendar.

Maximize your accomplishments by multitasking. Azriela Jaffe, author of Honey, I Want to Start My Own Business: A Planning Guide for Couples, has been called "the queen of multitasking." She's an expert at making every minute count. A business coach and speaker in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Jaffe believes that a cordless phone is a must for home based business owners who want to make the most of their time. "The best part of working at home is that tasks can be done in short spurts," Jaffe says. "Whenever I'm doing something that doesn't require my total attention, I find something to do alongside it. I'm always on my portable phone.' Jaffe begins by planning her day early each morning. She determines which tasks she hopes to accomplish by the end of the day and decides which ones she can combine. "I segment my day at the beginning--which may mean I prepare dinner at 10 a.m., if chopping vegetables would work with a phone call to a colleague," Jaffe explains. "If two of my tasks are talking with a colleague and printing documents or reading mail and downloading an e-mail message, I do those during the same half hour rather than spending half an hour on each."

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