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Time Management Questions Answered

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about time management:


You have spent many days getting organized. You have set up files, sorted the useful from non-useful and finally cleared out all those in and out baskets. How can you keep things neat and organized?

  1. Get into the habit of deciding immediately where each piece of paper goes and what your next action step will be. Do not set it aside in a pile for a later decision.
  2. After working with a file, put it away before starting another project.
  3. Be very selective about what you save. Refile things quickly.
  4. Jot notes in the proper location the first time, not on little pieces of paper that are easily lost.
  5. Clear your desk at the end of each day.


There are a number of projects sitting on your “back burner.” These are things that you would like to do but never seem to have the time. How can you squeeze them into an already tight schedule?

1. Take each project and write a plan for accomplishing it.

2. Break the project into very small, discrete steps. Identify steps that will take 20 minutes or less to do.

3. Make a commitment to do them by scheduling these on your calendar.

4. Be sure to complete one 20-minute step on your back burner project every day.


You have a to/do list that is three pages long. It seems like a waste of time to keep rewriting it, and you are tempted to give up list making altogether. How can list-making be helpful instead of frustrating?

  1. Be sure that you are only writing down the things you are likely to forget. Do not use the list to write down your entire job every day.
  2. Split your list into two. Keep one list for large projects only, the other for daily tasks that you will complete in the next one or two days.
  3. After breaking big projects into small, easy to accomplish steps, list those onto your daily to/do list.
  4. Consider using your computer to track big projects and their due dates.


There are many things you are interested in and may need to refer to again. Your “articles” and “reference” files are too unwieldy. How can you find information that you’ve saved quickly and easily?

  1. Set up subject files, using broad headings such as “personnel,” “educational tools,” “quality improvement,” “surveys.”
  2. File articles and reference information by the subject they represent, not the form in which the information came to you.
  3. Put away interesting-to-read items with related material the first time you touch it, even if you have not read it yet. Place a note on your to/do list or calendar reminding you to read the specific document.


Your office has an unofficial open door policy. Even the president invites people to “drop by any time.” How can you get your work done, other than between 6 and 9 p.m. or 5 and 8 a.m.?

  1. Modify your open door policy. Practice closing it for 30 minutes a day. (That’s less time than you typically spend away at lunch.)
  2. Use voice mail to screen calls, but indicate in your outgoing message that you will be returning calls at a specific time.
  3. Let others know that you are always willing to help but encourage people to honor your need for time to concentrate.


Is there an easy way to say “no” to the many demands you are faced with? You worry about being rude, or risk being called unfriendly.

Getting used to saying “no” takes time and practice. Habitually saying “yes” to everyone else is really saying “no” to your own needs, priorities and promises. Say “no” to those things that sidetrack you. Help people by offering suggestions, but certainly do not be rude or insensitive. Keep in mind, you must be ruthless with time, but gracious with people.