If you can regularly ask yourself "Am I regularly and consistently working on those items that will move me towards my clearly defined goals?" and honestly answer "Yes" then you are probably doing ok.
If not, here are a few time wasters to be aware of and some strategies for protecting your time (priorities).
MAIL: Don't waste your time on junk mail (unless you are specifically looking for good marketing ideas to borrow) - if possible get someone else to go through your mail and sort out the junk and take care of the routine items.
If you do want to save the junk mail have it placed in a box or file that you can go through when you are brainstorming for new ideas. (This is commonly called a "Swipe File" by most writers - a resource to generate good ideas that you can swipe and adapt to your own use.)
MEETINGS: Scheduled and unscheduled meetings can be a terrible waste of time. Don't allow people to just drop in on you without an appointment and a purpose. Avoid any scheduled meetings that you possibly can.
If you are in charge of a meeting - make sure you have a plan for keeping it short and focused. If you have to attend a meeting and you are not in charge - have a plan for escaping once you are done with your portion (such as a phone call or appointment at a pre-arranged time).
Also, stop meeting people at restaurants, etc. They will invariably keep you waiting. Instead have them meet you at your office. That way, if they are late, you can continue to be productive. If you must meet them outside of the office, take something with you to read or work on while you are waiting.
DOWN TIME: Meaning time that you spend waiting, traveling, sick, etc.
Always have something to do, or to listen to, or to read. Ask yourself "What is stackable?" In other words, what
tasks can I combine and do at the same time, such as listening to training tapes while commuting.
LACK OF PLANNING: There is an old saying that I often repeat to myself: "Having lost sight of our objective, we re-doubled our efforts". In other words, not knowing where we were going we got there twice as fast.
Take a little time each day to focus on your tasks at hand and make sure they are leading you towards your goals. If they are not, then eliminate them all together or delegate them if necessary.
Then chart out the day in such a way that maximizes your available time. Combine activities where possible and block out portions of the day to accomplish the most important tasks. Then keep your appointments with yourself as strictly as you would with your most important client.
INTERRUPTIONS: The greatest productivity usually comes from being able to focus on a project for an extended period of time without interruption. Interruptions not only waste the time of the interruption itself but also the time to refocus your concentration on the task at hand.
Do whatever you can to avoid interruptions. If possible, have someone else answer the phone and then return calls at a designated time for calls. Train your clients, etc. to call during that time.
Become inaccessible to those that regularly steal your time by dropping in or calling to shoot the breeze. Hide if you have too. When I worked for a real estate company many years ago I specifically asked for the office that was hidden away down in the basement. It had it's own outside entrance so I could come and go without the other agents knowing I was there, eliminating all those unnecessary little interruptions.
If you can't hide, be busy and be obvious about it so others are less apt to interrupt.
DISORGANIZATION: "A place for everything, and everything in its place" is good advice. Few things waste more time than having to hunt for something every time you need it. Keep a clean desk, work on one thing at a time and put it away when you're done. (Sorry if I sound like your mother)
PAPERWORK: This can be a great time waster. If you have stacks of paper and files all over your desk or office do yourself a favor and go buy a filing cabinet and some file folders. Set up drawers for specific types of files, etc.
Have a place for every type of file or paperwork. Go through everything in your office and either file it or throw it away. Buy dividers or organizers or whatever is necessary to systematize the flow of paperwork through your office.
LACK OF FOCUS: Anything that keeps you from focusing on your priorities during those times you have chosen to be productive must be eliminated. That means TV, radio, internet, email, mail, etc.
Another cause of lack of focus is shifting priorities. What I mean is, starting on one project or task, then shifting to another project without completing the first, then shifting to another, and so on.
The world is full of opportunities and sometimes they each look better than the previous one (Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence). Be disciplined enough that, no matter what, you will finish what you intended to finish before starting something else.
Now this doesn't mean that you can't have more than one project going at a time, but make sure you have sufficient time allotted to accomplish each goal in a specific amount of time and get it done before replacing it with another project.
"If you chase to rabbits at once, both shall escape" Ancient Proverb
Shawn Meldrum has spent the last two decades marketing everything from almonds to landscape lighting. He currently specializes in marketing for mortgage brokers, loan officers and real estate agents. For free mortgage marketing articles and much more visit: http://www.mortgagemarketingtips.com/