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The following Guest Post from Productivity Coach Kirstin O'Donovan was orignally published on the Upwork blog. In it, she explains how you can make efficient use of your time and maximize your results using three simple concepts—the three P's.

"Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed when thinking of all the things you have to do, or find that you just can't seem to get on top of all the work?''

When you want to improve your time-management skills, there are multiple areas to look at. You can begin by understanding how you use the time you have. Next, you can identify bad habits and finally, you can learn the tools to change these habits. Here are a few tips and techniques you can apply to get more done and feel more productive using the three P’s of time management: Planning, Prioritizing and Performing.


There is a common expression that says ''By failing to plan, you are planning to fail.'' If you don't plan, you won't know everything you need to do to make a project successful. You might be inadequately prepared, face unexpected problems, miss deadlines and as a result, your reputation could be at stake. That can lead you to feeling overwhelmed, unorganized and stressed. You must understand the value in planning—it may not have immediate results but don´t forget what it is costing you to not plan. 

At the end of the day, spend at least 15 minutes planning your next day. This way, you will wake up with a clear sense of what needs to be done and in the evening you will feel like you have accomplished what you needed to.The first step is to write everything down without keeping anything in your head. Put it all down onto a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet—whatever works best for you. Also remember to include your routine tasks in your daily planning. Allocate a specific amount of time for a particular task but be realistic. Also remember to keep your actions bite-sized—limit assignments to a single activity. Completing the entire newsletter is too broad; will you be working on the layout, design or the content? You need to write out each activity, not the outcome.

So now you have written down everything you need to do and you have allocated the time to it. What's next? Which task do you complete first? There are only a certain number of hours in the day and in order to be more productive, we need to do the tasks that bring us the most value. That means you need to prioritize and understand which projects require action and prioritize sensibly.  


Ask yourself: if I could choose one thing on the list, which would be the most important? Or which tasks would give you the biggest return on your investment of time?

After identifying the most important task, look for the second most important, third, and so on, taking into account time allocation for each. You can group your tasks into different categories, which can help you to prioritize, though most of your time should be spent on categories 1 & 2 below:

  1. Important and urgent: These tasks require a response in a short period of time. You need to do these tasks because they are urgent, but remember if you keep putting out fires you are not making time for the other tasks that are important but not urgent.
  2. Important and not urgent: These call for action, and while it does not need to be done today, it has to be done eventually. This category is where you should be spending most of your time.
  3. Urgent but not important: These projects require immediate action, but are not high priority. They happen when you find yourself saying yes to too many things for other people, or you find yourself being interrupted.
  4. Neither urgent/nor important: These are probably worth doing at some point but are often instances of busy work, often diversionary such as cleaning your emails, organizing your desk, and other distractions. These tasks give you the feeling of being busy.
  5. Wasted time: Is your time better spent somewhere else? Is it worth doing this task? Can it be delegated?


Once you have planned and prioritized, you have to perform! This means that you have to concentrate on one task until it is 100% complete! You need to complete it with no diversion at all. Turn off your mobile device and close your email; remove those distractions that you know you normally have. This will increase your productivity, and both the quality and the quantity of your work. If you focus on completing one task at a time, you will be surprised at how much you can get done! Also—don’t forget to follow your energy (how you feel) and do important tasks when you are most energetic and alert.

Planning, Prioritizing and Performing are the keys to success. And remember if you can´t find more time, change the way you use the time you already have!"

Kirstin O´Donovan is a Productivity Coach, helping individuals who struggle with time-management, organization and procrastination to achieve their goals, improve organization and gain control over their time.

Are you interested in learning more about your planning skills, as well as how you score on 25 other dimensions of entrepreneurship? Since 2009, the Founder Institute has been testing the personality traits of aspiring entrepreneurs, and then correlating that data with the long-term performance of their ventures.

If you want to know your entrepreneurial strengths and weaknesses compared to 175,000+ entrepreneurs across 6 continents, learn more and get your results here:

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