We all have just 24 hours in a day, so why is it that some people seem to get more out of their quota than others? Well, in the end, it is down to using techniques — and below are some of my favourites.

Take the first 30 minutes of your day so that you can plan your daily activity. Don’t start your day until you have completed your time plan. The most important time of your day could be the time you schedule to schedule the rest of your time!

Be organised and plan activities in advance so that there are no last minute surprises which take up precious minutes, or hours, and stress you out.

Go to bed early. An extra hour‘s sleep gives you an additional 365 hours per year! Now that can’t be bad!

Do your ‘to do’ list before you leave the office so you know exactly what you are doing the next morning. Organise all your files before you leave so you have everything to hand.

Don’t answer your email as soon as you get into the office unless you have given yourself a specific time to do this, but when you do — then turn your email off!


Schedule extra minutes when you leave to go to an appointment. Don’t always be the last one to arrive, with everyone looking at you. Grow the reputation for being always on time and reliable.

Don’t make back-to-back meetings with no allowance for delays as the chances are you will be late for one of them.

Colour-code your files so you know where all your paperwork is and you don’t spend hours looking for an email or an order.

Plan the night before. When staying in a hotel, don’t lock your passport in the room safe to retrieve just before you leave. Do it the night before. Sometimes, it may refuse to open and leave you stranded! [I learnt the hard way!]

Think in advance as to all your activities during the week and plan for them. Also, if you are entertaining at the weekend, make a list the week before, to make sure you get everything in that you need and so there are no last-minute panics.

Don’t always take phone calls just because the phone rings. No doubt you can see on screen who has called you and you can call them back, when it is convenient for you.

Spare time

Use ‘dead time’ effectively. Think in advance as to when you might be travelling as a passenger or have to wait for an appointment, and use the time effectively. Keep that book or file to read in your bag.

Plan for interruptions and delays because they will always happen.

When you make a business call, plan in advance as to what will be your agenda and afterwards, write a note and action plan from the conversation. That way, you will not forget.

Manage distractions. At work, block out Facebook and other forms of social media unless you are using them for business.

Taking on too much? If this is you, then you need to start to learn to say ‘No’ but in a courteous and respectful manner so that the person who is making the request is fully appreciative that you do not have the time to do what is being asked.

Improving productivity

Addiction to being busy. People can get addicted to the adrenaline rush when they are under pressure but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are being productive, and it can easily lead to stress.

Multi-tasking. In theory it’s great, but in reality it is far more productive to focus on one job at a time so that you complete it and then start the next. It’s also more satisfying.

Take breaks. We all need to take time out but don’t dismiss it as lost time but rather as a ‘battery recharge’ stop, And ensure you make time for lunch as you won’t work well when you are hungry!

So, in essence, the most effective ways to improve your productivity is to identify and then rectify your time management mistakes — and I hope that some of the above techniques will help you along the way.

— The writer 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.