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SPEND TIME PLANNING AND ORGANIZING. Using time to think and plan is time well-spent. In fact, if you fail to take time for planning, you are, in effect, planning to fail. Organize in a way that makes sense to you. If you need color and pictures, use a lot on your calendar or planning book. Some people need to have papers filed away; others get their creative energy from their piles. So forget the “shoulds” and organize your way.

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SET GOALS Goals give your life, and the way you spend your time, direction. When asked the secret to amassing such a fortune, one of the famous Hunt brothers from Texas replied: “First you’ve got to decide what you want.” Set goals which are specific, measurable, realistic and achievable. Your optimum goals are those which cause you to “stretch” but not “break” as you strive for achievement. Goals can give creative people a much-needed sense of direction.

PRIORITIZE Use the 80-20 Rule originally stated by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noted that 80 percent of the reward comes from 20 percent of the effort. The trick to prioritizing is to isolate and identify that valuable 20 percent. Once identified, prioritize time to concentrate your work on those items with the greatest reward. Prioritize by color, number or letter — whichever method makes the most sense to you. Flagging items with a deadline is another idea for helping you stick to your priorities.

CONQUER PROCRASTINATION. One technique to try is the “Swiss cheese” method described by Alan Lakein. When you are avoiding something, break it into smaller tasks and do just one of the smaller tasks or set a timer and work on the big task for just 15 minutes. By doing a little at a time, eventually you’ll reach a point where you’ll want to finish.

DO THE RIGHT THING RIGHT. Noted management expert, Peter Drucker, says “doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.” Doing the right thing is effectiveness; doing things right is efficiency. Focus first on effectiveness (identifying what is the right thing to do), then concentrate on efficiency (doing it right).

LEARN TO SAY “NO.” Such a small word — and so hard to say. Focusing on your goals may help. Blocking time for important, but often not scheduled, priorities such as family and friends can also help. But first you must be convinced that you and your priorities are important — that seems to be the hardest part in learning to say “no.” Once convinced of their importance, saying “no” to the unimportant in life gets easier.

REWARD YOURSELF. Even for small successes, celebrate achievement of goals. Promise yourself a reward for completing each task, or finishing the total job. Then keep your promise to yourself and indulge in your reward. Doing so will help you maintain the necessary balance in life between work and play. As Ann McGee-Cooper says, “If we learn to balance excellence in work with excellence in play, fun, and relaxation, our lives become happier, healthier, and a great deal more creative.”

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