Any nurse will tell you life is busy. Long work hours are enough to make anyone fall behind, but add family obligations, possibly classes, volunteer time, and the never-ending errand list and life gets pretty booked. But there are a few ways you can take control of the off-work time you have and not only up your productivity, but also find a few hours to even enjoy yourself. Really!

1. Write It Down

This is where good old-fashioned paper and pen trumps whatever electronic device you might be using for grocery lists and appointments. The act of physically writing something down actually helps you remember what you are writing. So use your device to remind yourself about appointments, but if it is something important, write it down first. You will be less likely to forget that you promised to bring in cookies for teacher appreciation day or that you agreed to cover a shift next week.

2. Learn to Love the List

Take 10 minutes every morning and make a “to-do” list of what you need to get done that day. It may sound incredibly picky, but break your day down hour by hour. Can you fit in a couple of phone calls during a lunch hour? Can you grab a few groceries on the way home from work? If you have the whole day free, place the most important or lengthy tasks at the top of the list so you can get them out of the way first. Be realistic about the time each task will take and how much you can get done. For upcoming, but not pressing, activities (e.g., calling the vet for boarding this fall, picking up a birthday gift) keep a separate “to think about” list so it stays on your radar. And cross off each completed task – if nothing else, it will make you feel good!

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3. Just Do It (But Not All at Once)

Hate updating your resume? Dreading that essay for class? Remember, procrastination makes nothing better. The closer the deadline gets, the more panicked you will feel. Take control of the time you have and break down dreaded tasks into small 15-minute increments. If you devote just 15 minutes a day to your resume, you will be well on your way to getting it out the door, and, more importantly, you will feel in control. Often, just starting the project is the hardest part. Once you get going, you might find you work even faster.

4. Focus, Focus, Focus

How many times have you stopped something to answer the phone, check email, or start the laundry only to return to your original task lacking all the momentum you built up? Interruptions are time zappers – stripping away your focus and actually causing you to take longer to complete something. If your task requires focus, give it all your concentration. Not only will your work quality be better, but you will probably spend less overall time completing what needs to be done.

 Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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