Are you tired of feeling like you never have enough time? You end your day feeling like you haven’t stopped, yet you cannot clearly identify tasks that have been completed? Unfortunately (and fortunately), we all have the same exact amount of time to either maximize or waste. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, once they are gone, they are gone. Use them wisely! It’s time to stop working harder and start working smarter! Being busy is not an indicator of success. Instead of creating habits to be busy, create habits to do more in the same amount of time or less.

I have been training car dealerships for over 13 years now, with 11 of those 13 years as a Franklin Covey certified trainer and facilitator of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity”. The number one concern I hear in the dealership world is that there is not nearly enough time to accomplish tasks. Regardless of the position held, the same common theme exists. Most people are investing some serious hours in the store, yet they leave daily feeling dissatisfied with their productivity level and with their stress level through the roof, agonizing over the tasks that didn’t get done, dreading their return the following day. When I am contracted by a dealership to conduct time management training and consulting, I begin by qualifying the method in which the members of the organization manage their tasks and half the people are crisis-oriented, allowing the day to take them wherever it goes depending on what fires they are putting out, and the other half are  “to-do” list driven. While the latter is way more efficient than just allowing the day to lead them, this still is NOT enough. The following 17 tips will bring you closer to increased productivity, by understanding how to distinguish the priority tasks from distractions disguised as tasks, and ultimately achieving your highest priorities.

  1. Stop saying you don’t have enough time! Our thoughts become our words and our words become our actions. If you continue to tell yourself that you do not have enough time, you won’t.

  2. Have a master task list, but don’t just have a long-running list, randomly arranged. Instead, assign due dates to those items based on priority level. You should have two task lists, one for personal tasks and one for professional tasks.

  3. Use the “ABC” order method to assign priority levels to your tasks. A items are items that are due the same day, B items are items that are due within the next few days and C items are tasks that are due a week or more out.  Items that have due dates are clearly defined, but for the others, assign them.

  4. Take your “ABCs” one step further. Once you qualify your tasks as A’s, B’s, and C’s, drill down deeper by turning your A’s into A1, A2, A3, A4, and so on. This will give you the ability to put your most important tasks in sequential order.

  5. Work in 3’s. Relieve the sense of feeling overwhelmed by thinking about 3 tasks at any given time. Handle your A1, A2, and A3 first, then assign the next 3 items. Small bites.

  6. Work within your influence. As my daughter would say, you are not an octopus. You can only accomplish as much as you are physically able, so no need to concern yourself with tasks 7,8,9 when you haven’t completed the 6 tasks before them.

  7. Use the 3 D’s…Do it, Delegate it, or Destroy it. As tasks come through, determine if you will do it and assign it an A, B, or C, priority or delegate it to someone else in the organization (or if personal to a friend or family member), or if the task doesn’t further advance your life personally or professionally, eliminate it completely!

  8. Use a calendar and put all appointments on it. This goes for both personal and professional. What gets scheduled, gets done.

  9. Just say no! Have the courage to say “no” to tasks when your plate is already full. If the task is being assigned from management, ask “I have no problem with jumping on that task, but please let me know which of these other high priority things you would like me to put off in order to accomplish this newly assigned task?”This puts the responsibility on the manager.

  10. Limit interruptions. Self interruptions are a thing too. It takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Allocate an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to label as “quiet time”.

  11. Plan “interrupted” time too. Allocate 1 hour of the day to PROACTIVELY see what tasks are needed your assistance with. OR…let your team members know that they can stop by your desk at such and such time to get assistance.

  12. OHIO (Only handle it once). Don’t procrastinate items by looking at them and then putting them to the side over and over again. If you aren’t going to do it, delegate it, or destroy it.

  13. Do NOT discriminate against tasks. In other words, don’t procrastinate the things that you don’t like doing. Take emotion out of it and work objectively.

  14. When working on tasks, “begin with the end in mind” so that you are not just working with the mindset of “seeing where the project takes you”. A defined task agenda will keep you focused and moving smoothly, allowing you to complete tasks in a shorter time frame and reduce stress levels.

  15. Keep the same day for recurring tasks. For recurring tasks, pick the same day every single week to complete that task. This way it is treated like an appointment and it becomes a habit. Create a weekly schedule for these tasks.

  16. Eliminate distractions. Don’t feel the need to answer the phone just because it is ringing or check emails constantly. This is Quadrant 3 activity. This may be a hard habit to break, but close out your email browser and assign yourself certain times of the day to check emails, voicemails, and social media.

  17. Breathe. Unless you are performing brain surgery or dismantling explosives, I promise you it will be okay. Sometimes just taking a small timeout to rest your mind is enough to do the trick.