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When I first started college in the late 1980s, I attended my first time management course, and the instructor told us to write down our schedules for the entire day – including the specific time that we would work on each task. I dutifully wrote up-tothe-minute agendas detailing what I would do that day. From 8:00 to 8:30, I’ll do this task. From 8:30 to 9:10, I’ll do that task.

At that time, I could pretty much keep up with it. The days usually went as planned. When something unexpected arose, it was fairly easy to adjust my plan. Then, however, things started to change. Technology exploded! Voicemail, e-mail and the Internet entered the picture, and the Productivity Game changed forever. Today, if you attempt to write out every minute of your day, your schedule would blow up in the first five minutes. You could spend more time revising your plan than simply doing your work.

Indeed, it’s become harder to be productive for all of these reasons. We’re busier than ever before. We have more to do with fewer resources, and less time to do it. We’re more disorganized than ever before, as we receive information from multiple sources and have more data to track and organize. We’re constantly communicating with more people, more quickly, through more media. The result is that we have more conversations to recall.

Being productive today requires many different competencies, two of which are managing your time and being organized. If you excel in being productive, you have systems. You don’t just have piles of papers and piles of files. When you’re truly organized, you can find what you want when you want it in 30 seconds or less.

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