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We all live in a chaotic world where the demands on our time are relentless. There are always things to be done and how we manage ourselves throughout the day can drive our overall demeanor as well as our ability to relax at the end of it. It seems that everyone is working longer hours, so those precious hours off need to be fully utilized to recharge for the next day. While I am far from perfect about “turning it off,” I’ve used a few techniques that allow me a few moments of personal time at the end of each day:

Have a Clean In-Box Policy: If I have more than 5 unread messages I start to get anxious. My policy is to swat an email down as soon after it comes in as possible. I will either delete it, respond and then file it, or make a note in my calendar to deal with it later and then file it. In all cases it is not sitting in my inbox long. My colleagues at work thought it would be fun to get my reaction to someone’s inbox that had over 22,000 emails in it – I almost had an anxiety attack! My perspective is that whether you deal with an email now or later, the time spent dealing with the email is the same – but if you stay on top of your inflow you will greatly reduce your stress. Not having to worry about what might “lurk” in my inbox is one less thing to have on my mind at the end of the day when I’m trying to unwind.

Work off of a Check List: I am fanatical about creating a check list to work off of at the beginning of each day. This list is created by looking at my calendar, which has all my meetings, appointments and other to-dos I have for the day. If I know I need to do something, I immediately put it in my calendar (if it is later than today) or on my check list (if it needs to be done today.)   Right now I’m checking off the task to “draft blog.” Once everything on my list is checked off, I’m done for the day. Since I know I was diligent about capturing everything I needed to do, once I have done everything on my list I no longer have to wonder about what I may have missed. All items checked off list = relaxation!

Block Work Time: Related to my check-list, I use my calendar to block time to attend to tasks that require more than 30 minutes of dedicated time. This helps me manage my time, so that I can try to be more efficient in my day and do things like schedule meetings back-to-back instead of staggered with small amounts of time between them. Scheduling 30 minute meetings back to back instead of spaced out gives me more uninterrupted work time throughout the day to get things done. Getting more things done during the day means fewer late nights, which mean more relaxation for me.

Obviously, unexpected things come up that throw my time management techniques out the window. But even if I have to, I can adjust and move things around in an orderly fashion so that I don’t have to think about what I need to do, just when I need to do it. So, now I get to check this off the list – 3 more things and then I’m done for the day…