Too much to do, too little time. For some people, time management is a breeze; for others, it’s a nightmare.

The amount of time you have in a day may not be flexible, but you can be. Knowing how to use your time more efficiently can improve every aspect of your life, from work to school to personal time.

It’s not that you have to schedule out every minute of every day and constantly monitor the clock to make sure you’re on time; it’s more about knowing what you need to get done, how important your tasks are, and how long you’ll need to complete them. Here are three practical ways to make the most of your time at work.

 

1. Choose One Task to Get Done and Work on It First.

Most of us have a seemingly impossible amount of tasks on our to-do lists. The first step in time management is to admit that you probably aren’t going to get through your entire list in one day. Prioritize your to-do list so you have categories for “must get done today,” “nice to get done today,” and “can wait” (or whatever wording works for you). Then prioritize your “must get done today” tasks and determine which is the most important to complete. Begin there, and anything you get done after the first one is just a bonus.

 

2. Just Say No to Perfect.

We all want to do our absolute best and look flawless to our bosses, but the quest for perfection comes at a price. While you should always strive to do your best, keep in mind that trying to make your projects perfect may take significantly more time than you have to give. Thoughtful—and finished—work is a more effective use of time, and can save you unnecessary stress.

 

3. Build in Time for Breaks and Interruptions.

No one can make it through an entire work day without taking a break or getting interrupted. If you expect them to occur and actually allow for them in planning, you’ll find that you don’t have to rush at the last minute to complete something.

For example, you can’t always predict when someone is going to interrupt you, but you can control electronic interruptions like e-mails and phone calls. When you need to really concentrate, send your phone calls directly to voicemail and shut off your email and text message notifications so you won’t be tempted to check them. Schedule breaks for yourself every hour or two to get up and stretch your legs, and if necessary, encourage your co-workers to wait and speak with you when you take your break.

 

These three tips to manage your work time more efficiently should have you feeling more in control and less stressed…in no time.

Time management becomes even more important if you’re considering going back to school. Evaluate your current time management skills with Capella University’s time and priorities assessment.