As I sit in my London office waiting to coach Marian, a PR consultant, I am wondering as to why, if I am on time, she is not. We have the same 24 hours in the day, we both have very busy diaries and I wouldn’t dream of keeping her waiting as that would be disrespectful. But she consistently fails to arrive for our meetings on time.

When she eventually turns up, she is profusely apologetic with countless reasons as to why she is late, but it is now getting to the point where I am really disinterested in her reasons. All I know is that she is ruining my schedule for the day and, realistically, there is no reason why this should be happening.

Marion then tells me that she hasn’t completed a piece of work that I had given her to do from last week. She tells me, ‘I had forgotten that my children had to be collected from dance school and then the computer crashed and I couldn’t do it!. I am really sorry!’ I had to swallow hard listening to her excuses and obvious procrastination. I asked as to why she didn’t plan this task earlier into her week and again came another round of reasons why she couldn’t and didn’t.

Of course, Marion is not alone in her poor time-keeping habits but if she is to be successful in business, then she is going to have to take some hard decisions in her life and make some real changes.

Time and stress

In reality, of course, we cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves and our relationship with time. But if we are to be taken seriously then we must be aware of the timetables of others and our ability to either respect those time-schedules or to ignore them. If we ignore them, it is not only discourteous but can cause real problems, for most of us are a scheduled link in the daily lives of others and if we break the link then they have to run harder to reconnect it further on. And that is to unnecessarily increase the workload and the pressure for everyone.

How your time is managed is a key factor in determining the level of stress in your life. Marion is not happy about having to always make excuses and she is certainly not pleased about always being on the defensive with others when she is late. But nevertheless, she still is!

So let us look at what good time-management is about:

• Establishing priorities. Make a list of what MUST be done, and in what order and by what time

• Eliminate time-wasting activities. This is not an easy one as you can sit at the computer all day posting on Twitter and Facebook and really not doing what you need to do.

• Learning to say ‘No!’ Certainly easier that it sounds as you don’t want to be seen as unhelpful or unsupportive but think about it, if you say ‘Yes’ to everyone, you will have to let someone down at some point, together with yourself.

• ‘Chunk’ your time into two hourly sessions to manage in-depth, creative tasks. When I am writing my Gulf News column, I choose a particular time of the day with no interruptions and turn off my email and my phone! It is amazing how quickly the words flow when I do that!

• Not making excuses for not doing something. Just think of how creative Marian has to be when she is making-up an excuse! Imagine how profitable that creative energy could be, if used correctly.

• Make a list of achievable goals and targets. These have to be realistic and you need to have a plan as to how you are going to achieve them.

I hope that the above tips prove useful to you and don’t forget that the more efficient a time-manager you are, the less stress you will experience. And that in itself can only be a good thing.

And if you get stuck, then give me a call and we will set up a coaching session. All I ask is that you call at the appointed time!

— The author is a BBC Guest Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.