Your route to the top: Cope with overload

Take a moment. When a colleague dashes in with five new 'number one priority' projects, it's tempting to panic and leap straight into action.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Stop. It may seem like a waste of precious minutes, but forming a plan will save you crucial time later on.

Get stuck in. Once you have a plan in place, be wary of 'action illusion'. What can feel like useful preparation (reordering your task list, again) could be glorified procrastination. Decide on your first steps, stop arranging and start doing.

Manage your energy. In a poll of US executives, more than half said Tuesday was their most productive day. Decide which days (and times) are your energy hotspots, then map tasks to match this curve.

Take control. Efficient people focus on what they can change and influence (eg, the engagement of the sales team) and don't spend time worrying about what's beyond their control (buyers' shrinking budgets). Boost your productivity and bust stress by focusing on where you can make a difference.

Let go. Nobody can achieve everything, so don't try. Could someone else draft the budget or attend the meeting? When others offer help, swallow your pride and trust in their ability.

Keep meetings brief. Alexei Miller, CEO of Gazprom, the largest oil company in Russia, is said to open his meetings with the line 'you have 15 minutes'. Set the tone by asking 'what are we trying to achieve?', then propose a time-efficient way of getting there. Your time is valuable - let others know this.

Say the magic word. 'No' is the most useful syllable in time management. Say it respectfully, clearly and when you need to.

Revive dead time. Stuck in traffic? Flight delayed? Transform productivity blackspots by keeping a list of ongoing projects with you at all times. It's surprising what will rise Phoenix-like from the ashes.

- The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99 - www.themindgym.com/books

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