“I just need a little more time!” How often have you said that? For that matter, how many clichés have you heard about time?

“Time flies when you are having fun.”
“Lost track of time.”
“A watched pot never boils.”
“Only time will tell.”
“Time is a cruel thief.”
“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”

The underlying truth to all of these sayings is that time moves forward without remorse or ambition. It is a force of nature that you can work with or be crushed by as surely as gravity pulls down and the sun is hot. These clichés also highlight mankind’s persistent struggle to use time in the best possible way. This pursuit can have a dramatic effect on your outlook and productivity in all aspects of life.

Here are 5 ways to get the most out of your work time.

  1. Prioritize. List out everything you need and want to do today. Recognize that you will not be able to do everything. Highlight what is the most critical and important to complete. Are there any tasks that have a deadline or that are not urgent? Can some of the non-urgent tasks be eliminated altogether or given to someone else to handle? Schedule the most important things first according to the best times to be completed. For instance, if you are most productive from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, then schedule your most difficult work for that time. Fill in the rest of your day with the less important or easier tasks. Some even find it beneficial to get the most dreaded work out of the way early in the day, so they can be more relaxed and energetic for everything else.
  • Minimize distraction. This is true whether you are working in a traditional office space, at home, or in a café. Ensure your work space allows you to focus on the tasks in front of you. This may require you to turn away your chair away from the window or door and toward the wall. If listening to music helps, do it, however, be sure to turn off the TV and avoid playing videos as this will not help you focus. Do not be afraid to relocate to a conference room, café, or park bench for short periods if that helps you to focus on the task.  Block off time from meetings, email, and even your phone so you can stay in your most productive mental work zone.
  • 80/20 rule. The Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, observed that 80 percent of results often come from about 20 percent of our effort. For example, when sweeping a floor, roughly 80 percent of the dirt will come from about 20 percent of the area. In contrast, the other 80 percent of the work only picked up the remaining 20 percent of the dirt. This concept does not cover every situation, however, it can be applied to many areas of life. Avoid being a perfectionist. Could some of the items on your priority list be considered finished after the most important parts are completed? Could the remaining time be best spent on other tasks instead of the remaining 20 percent left to do with the current item?
  • Be a professional. One of the biggest mistakes we can make when getting started with a task is to wait for the “right time” or when we feel motivated to do it. Just do it. Think of the most organized and self-motivated person you know, then start the task like you think they would. Once you get it started, your motivation will follow.
  • Break time. Everyone needs regular breaks to be the most effective. Schedule your break time and stick to it. Leave your work space. Talk a quick walk. Get your favorite beverage. Give your mind and body a quick time out. When you come back, you will be more effective and energized.