(MoneyWatch) Feeling like you're always running from one thing to the next, yet not getting anything done? The problem might be how you're viewing time, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of the new book, "The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment" and founder of Real Life E, a time-coaching and training company.
"If you find yourself apologizing all the time, you probably have unrealistic views of reality because you can't deliver on what you committed to do when you committed to do it," she says. Here are four steps to getting out of this trap.
1. Get real. "What I often see happen is that people will subconsciously recognize that they're facing an impossible task, but instead of stepping back and assessing what's realistic, they frantically plunge into activities in a desperate attempt to defy reality," Saunders says. But as she points out, "reality always wins." Try keeping track of exactly how long activities take. If a report usually takes you two hours to write, you can't write 20 in a day. Accept that fact.
2. Bail on what you can. "Decide what you can say 'no' or 'not now' to and get it off your list ASAP," says Saunders. "It's better to get out of commitments early and often that aren't aligned with your highest priorities and realistic expectations than to fail to deliver or burn yourself out in the process."
3. Sleep. It seems counterintuitive, but spending more time sleeping when you feel you have too much to do is actually smart. Being tired contributes to a sense of hopelessness. "When you have enough sleep, you'll feel better, handle stress better, make better decisions and work more effectively," says Saunders. "Figure out whatever is holding you back from getting enough sleep and take care of that issue first. Once you start sleeping regularly, you can move on to the other items."
4. Become a creature of habit. Routines "reduce the number of decisions you make each day," says Saunders. "If all the basics of life are automatic" -- when you sleep, when you plan, when you answer email -- "you're better able to handle changes and to get more done in less time without forgetting anything or feeling overwhelmed."Photo courtesy of Flickr user mariachily