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Article by Karima Mariama-Arthur

Time is a nonnegotiable, nonrenewable resource. Somehow, we all seem to forget this, especially when we become overwhelmed.

However, if you learn to remove distractions and prioritize important tasks, you can do more with your time — and live a much happier life, too.

Consider this: Do you proactively engage in your day or simply fall into various activities? With so many pressing concerns on our plates, many of us feel we have no choice but the latter. The thing is, we have far more control than we give ourselves credit for. Time is always of the essence, so it’s up to you to manage your time effectively amid a sea of competing interests.

Not sure where to get started with taking back your time? Here are three ways you can immediately regain control of your time and use it the way you want to:

1. Begin With the End in Mind

Before starting your week, identify the most important tasks you will need to accomplish in this timeframe, as well as the specific results you seek from each task. Limit your list to 3-5 key items, and schedule those tasks based on the rigor required by each. For example, be careful not to assign two equally taxing items to the same day. Allocate a specific period of time in which to accomplish each item, and approach your list with a sense of urgency.

When a competing interest eventually arises, ask yourself: Is this activity appropriate given what I need to accomplish today? The answer is often rather clearcut. A genuine dilemma may arise every once in a while, and a new task may need to take precedence over a scheduled task, but this will occur less frequently than you might expect.

Evaluate your success by looking at how many critical outcomes remain outstanding by the week’s end. Your goal is to be at a completion rate of 90 percent or greater. Carry any uncompleted outcomes over to the next week.

2. Confront Distractions

It may seem difficult to avoid the allure of people, technology, and other attractive nuisances, but remember that you’re responsible for the choices you make.

And what is the best choice to make? Confront your distractions. You already know your vices, the things that are likely to cause you to stumble. Why not remove the enticements in advance? Recognize distractions for what they are, and realize that by mindlessly engaging with them, you lose precious time that could be better spent doing the things that matter the most.

Evaluate your success by looking at how well you navigate each distraction. The goal is to proactively confront each one without succumbing. Consider also whether you have achieved the target critical outcomes without delay due to distractions.

3. Assess Your Results

By taking a closer look at your performance, you can determine where you need to make adjustments to better manage your time. Evaluation should occur at two critical benchmarks: daily and weekly. While everything is still fresh in your mind, do a quick assessment at the end of each day. Did you achieve everything you needed to? Is there anything about this particular day that sticks out to you? Is it positive or negative? Does it have any kind of impact on your time management? Abandon whatever plans or processes you find are not working, and double-down on whatever is.

At the end of the week, do a global assessment. Look for patterns and trends across days. Were there certain time periods in which you found it easy to work? Did any distractions crop up multiple times? Go beyond simply observing your performance. Use your observations to help you adjust your time management and maximize your results.

Ultimately, the bottom line is simple: Don’t fall into activity. Set yourself up for success. Use these strategies to reclaim your time and proactively control how you spend it.

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business, and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, Karima help clients successfully navigate today’s ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, Karima speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.

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