Time management is a skill that even the most productive of us can struggle with. Being inundated on a daily, if not hourly, basis with new duties, employee relations issues, and client-related projects can make your organized calendar and to-do list seem pointless. Though there is no way to control some of the random items that pop up, there are a number of factors that are within your control that can help make those spontaneous tasks seem less daunting.

Eliminate unnecessary interruptions. For unwanted visitors, try moving your in-box out of your office to eliminate unnecessary drop-in visits and unproductive socialization. Close your door when you’re busy and put a sign up that says “Do Not Disturb” until X time.

Turn off the speaker and notifications for email on your computer. You don’t need to hear e-mails come in or see the pop-ups which cause you to lose your concentration. You don’t need to immediately jump when e-mails come through.

Do something with each message you open. Either delete it, file it, forward it, delegate it, do it if it’s quick, schedule time to do it later, pend it, or flag it for follow up. View your Inbox as a tool for the temporary storage of messages, not a to-do list for unfinished work.

Use your voicemail. Don’t pick up the phone when working a critical task. If you’re working on a deadline, put a message on the answering device that says you will be returning calls at a certain time so people will know when you’ll be getting back to them.

Discover your most productive hour. This will take some experimenting, but one way to discover this is to block out a different hour each day and judge how productive you were during that time. Make sure you have no interruptions for that hour. Once you have determined which hour of the day you can do your most productive work, save that time each day for the items that require the most brain power.

Conduct quick meetings. Many employees complain that meetings take up a lot of their time. The average meeting runs about an hour and time is often wasted with nonworking-related items. Try conducting more effective meetings by always having an agenda and preferably only one or two items. Set a time limit on the items and stick to your agenda.

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