What is our life? “Routine, a gray, bedraggled reality,” as one denizen of the World Wide Web has expressed it. But if we dig a little deeper, it will emerge that everything is subject to routine, even the everyday life of cre-ative people. It’s time we realized that routine is life as we have created it for ourselves. And it’s sufficient to begin doing what we like to do for life to get interesting, and instead of being a boring slog, the everyday routine will become an instrument for achieving your goals.

If you’re engaged in business, then time is a very valuable resource for you. And a poorly organized life is a series of missed opportunities. The less you attend to regimen in your life, the more of your energy is stolen. The people and kinds of activity that are important to you suffer from a shortage of attention. Of course you want to master your time, to tame that shrew; the trick is to find concrete ways to reach that goal. ÀLPEON proposes several toeholds on the climb to success.

Set up a system of priorities and stick to it.

Good organization is the ability to distinguish be-tween what you need to do from what you’d like to do if you had unlimited time. Unfortunately, none of us have that. So write down on paper your main goals and tasks as they come to mind. Then compare their value to you and, depending on degree of importance, assign them numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Discard everything else. Com-pare how you’ve spent your time with how you should have spent it, gearing yourself to the tasks that have been set. Discard any activity that doesn’t lead to your goal. Use three columns so you can keep track of all your obligations. The first column is for goals and high-priority activities. There you can mark positions: “A” is for “urgent,” for matters that cannot be put off and that only you can deal with; “B” is for “important,” for urgent matters that you can delegate to someone; and “C” is for “can wait awhile,” for matters, the necessity of which is questionable for the time being. The second column contains a list of the phone calls you’ve penciled in to make over the course of the work day. And the third col-umn lists various points you plan to discuss with col-leagues, partners, or personnel.

As you finish up the day, devote fifteen minutes to an “evening sort-out” and put together a plan for the next day.

Your analysis of the day just past is in the answers to these five questions: — What have I managed to do, and what haven’t I?
— What interfered with my achieving more?
— What useful business contacts have I gained?
— What was I in command of today, and where was I all at sea?
— What did I learn to do, and what interesting ideas did I come up with?
The sort-out will take five to seven minutes and help you map out the work sequence for the next day in an-other few minutes. A set plan establishes a good work rhythm from the very beginning of the new workday.

Keep your desk clean.

The best paper management policy has always been, “Do this… Delegate that… Throw this away...” Pieces of paper will bury the best of us until we resolve to “take no prisoners.” If in doubt, throw it out! If you’re inclined to play it safe, ask yourself what would happen if you threw out this or that piece of paper. If the answer is on the level of causing injury to someone—keep it. If not, get rid of it!

Learn to delegate.

Delegating means organizing division of labor and responsibility among staffers. When subordinates begin sensing responsibility for an entire sector of work, their personal initiative is aroused and their faith in the per-manence of work relationships and their dedication to the firm are strengthened. To correctly distribute duties, you need to envision the result you want to gain from execution of the assignment. You have to give precise instructions and set concrete deadlines for completion. After your subordinates have been familiarized with the assignment, ask them to tell you what they plan to do and how. Dispel doubts and deal with questions that come up at the very beginning of the job so that every-one is clear on what is expected. After that, you won’t need to be constantly bugging people or checking up on them. You’ll ask about results when the time comes.

Use a time organizer, a printed daily planner or electronic analog with capabilities for calendar planning.

Enter dates and times of scheduled actions and appointments, along with all your obligations and exact times by which they are to be completed. These meas-ures will help you use your work time more productively.

Find a work style that’s optimal for you, and stick to it.

Ask yourself: Do I prefer to work several hours at a time without a break, or do I want regular breaks with a certain time interval? Do I want to be under the pressure of a deadline, or do I want to move steadily to comple-tion? Do I want to tackle the most difficult parts of the job first, or begin with the easy things to gain momen-tum?

Practice proper retention of papers.

Don’t waste time searching for documents you sud denly need in the course of your project. File everything you know you’ll need and throw out everything else. Name your folders in such a way that they begin with a noun. For example, you’ll find a file with the names of new clients far more quickly if you name it “Clients (new)” instead of “New clients.”

Try to do only one thing at a time.

The modern rhythm of life pushes us to multi-task. We dictate reminders while driving, read while eating, talk on the phone with one eye on the TV... Trying to at-tend to several activities at the same time leads to con-stant tension, distraction, and forgetfulness, which makes you less effective at your work and has a nega-tive effect on your sense of wellness. Concentrating at-tention on one matter at a time helps resolve it more productively and brings the peace of mind you get from completing the task.

Avoid interruptions.

Create conditions so that no one can disturb your peace and quiet with a phone call or by dropping in on you. Leave your phone turned on, but turn off the ringer, and close the office door so nobody can just wander in. In other words, cut connections to the outer world. Don’t worry about trying to appear very busy and inaccessi-ble; maybe the most important job at the moment is sit-ting quietly and mulling over an urgent problem.

Stop wasting time on downtime.

We lose a substantial amount of time on standby. If there’s time before a business appointment, in a doc-tor’s waiting room, in line at the bank, or waiting for a family member who isn’t ready to go, do something use-ful: look through mail, write checks, continue reading a helpful book or article, call and set an appointment, sketch out ideas for a future project... There are lots of matters that we can deal with in five or ten minutes.

Try not to be late.

Being late knocks both you and the other person off track. A key factor in successful business is the trust of your partners. If you promise to arrive by ten o’clock, but show up at ten fifteen, that means your partner had fif-teen minutes to count your drawbacks. Raise punctual-ity to the level of an article of religious faith.

Rethink daily rituals.

Many habitual activities may have lost their impor-tance over time or have ceased being relevant at all. You’ll be surprised at how much precious time you can free up.

Spare no expense paying for people who save you time.

How much is your time worth to you? Specialists can perform a job quickly and with a high-quality result. You can order airplane tickets and a hotel room on the Internet, but if you go through a travel agency, you don’t waste your own precious time and probably get better conditions for your flight and hotel stay. Take advantage of an office assistant and delivery services: the costs will be much less than your own time is worth. You might want to think about bartering—trading your time and skills for the services you need and gaining good busi-ness relationships in the bargain.

Learn to get away from it all.

No matter how busy you are, find time for your family and for some well-deserved R&R—rest and relaxation. Travel allows you not only to rest, but to make new con-nections, and to focus on other aspects of your life that help you reach the top of that climb to achieve your goals.