Dear Kathi,

I really need to find a way to manage my schedule more effectively. I am working in a constant run to catch up and I am exhausted. At the end of the day, I often haven’t accomplished the most important items on my “to do” list. Sometimes my “to-do’s” get completely lost because I never get to them. What can I do to gain control?

Susan, Encinitas


Effective time management is something that is attained with careful thought and never on the run. Follow these guidelines and your schedule will be back on track. Before you begin thinking about prioritizing your schedule, make an inventory of your work environment. Is it conducive to the way you work most effectively? Music/ background sounds/ no music etc. What atmosphere is the right one for you? Take the time to create an environment where you can work in peace and harmony and you will always accomplish more in less time. Is your workspace set up so that all of the supplies you need are within reach? Keep the tools of your trade close to your desk/work area. Know where everything is and you won’t waste precious time on a wild goose chase or shopping for duplicate items.

Once your workspace is optimized, think about your daily energy peaks and surges. Use your biological rhythms to your advantage. Identify the times of day when your energy levels are at their highest and schedule your most important work at those times. For example, if you don’t function well in the morning, plan your important meetings for late afternoon and use the morning for busy work or follow-up phone calls. Now that you have determined your most productive hours and your workplace is optimized, you can begin to tackle your scheduling issues. Develop a running list of every task that you normally complete in a week. It helps to use all seven days and start with Sunday. This list should include personal and business tasks. Think about each day and list the tasks that you typically need to accomplish.

Every job has required redundant tasks. List all of them and don’t forget your personal life in this schedule. Certain activities if neglected, will throw your life out of balance and undermine your high priority efforts (i.e., activities such as sleeping, eating, socializing, exercising, doing the laundry, etc.). Include them in your planning. If you have trouble developing your weekly list, look at your past calendar or schedule and mark down recurring tasks. When you feel sure that you’ve listed everything, mark each item on your list with an A, B, or C. A will represent the highest priority and C, the lowest. When this step is completed group all of the A’s together, B’s and C’s respectively.

What are the most important tasks to complete throughout the week? Can you see your personal work pattern? Take this pattern and begin to schedule in each activity. At the beginning of each day and week, review your timetable. New, unexpected items will come up and you will need to adjust your plans accordingly. Plan extra time between tasks and meetings. Be prepared to adjust your schedule while still keeping your high priority goals in mind.

List your highest priorities for the week on a separate sheet. Keep this list posted to the front of your weekly schedule. This will ensure that you will keep your focus throughout the week. You will also feel a sense of satisfaction as you cross off each task and your list begins to shrink. This list will also make it very easy to decide how you should spend your time on Thursday and Friday. Keep extra time slots open at the end of the week to complete your major goals and finish the week with a huge sense of accomplishment.

Remember to keep constant attention and focus on where you spend your time each day. Devote your energy according to your highest priorities and avoid getting bogged down by low priority tasks. If you get off track, smile because you realized it, pat yourself on the back, and return to controlling your schedule like a pro!

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

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San Diego Professional Organizer