“If you come in early and stay late every day, you’re not a hustler- you just can’t manage your time.” I saw this on my Twitter feed a few months ago and it resonated with me so much that I wrote it on a Post-It note and stuck it on my computer monitor. It serves as a daily reminder to me that it doesn’t matter when you get to work, it’s what you do while you’re there. Time management can be a seriously tough skill to master, but it can be done and this is how:

Create a daily to-do list which only consists of the tasks you need to get done that day. You are bound to get overwhelmed if you list everything you need to do for the week or month on your to-do list. Seriously, you’re setting yourself up for failure right from the start. It doesn’t matter if you take the old school approach and write everything on a notepad, or you’re a little more digitally savvy and use a task management tool like Insightly (we use this at the ‘peg, I love it) It allows me to schedule tasks for today or a week from today.  Then when I look at my list I only see what I need to work on now and what can wait until next week.

Be OK with saying, “No.” If you know you’re going to have a busy day, don’t put even more stress and pressure on yourself by taking on tasks from coworkers you know you can’t complete with your current workload. You’re setting yourself up for failure. If their task really needs to get done talk to your boss about making a trade off.  Select something else on your list which will shift to the next day. Sometimes you just have say no to going out to lunch, or doing a favor for someone in the office. If you have time at the end of the day to get to their request, then by all means help them out, but put your tasks first.

Schedule yourself some time to breathe. I cannot work for nine hours straight without breaks. If you can, that’s really great, I’d love to know your secrets, so please share them in the comments section at the end of this post. But if you’re like me, you need a break every now and then to switch gears and get your mind off of work. I check Twitter, look at Instagram, or sometimes Lorraine herds all of us outside for a brief walk to get our faces away from our computer screens. Whatever you do, take a few minutes to just step away from your work station and clear your head. Maybe take a few deep breaths or stretch.  When you do you will come back refreshed and ready to focus.

Focus. Focus. Focus. If you have too many tabs open to websites that might distract you, close them when you start working on a project. Eliminate the distractions and temptations. Put the phone away and log out of Facebook. You can catch up on missed text messages and tweets during your breaks, but when you start working on a project, make that the center of your attention. You don’t need to stop everything you are doing to answer an email 30 seconds after it arrives. THE EMAILS CAN WAIT. I know this is a terrifying thought, but it’s completely normal to email someone back two hours later. People understand you have your own work to get done and the world doesn’t stop for their emails. Or at least I hope they realize this.

Yeah, you can show up to the office at 8 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m. every day, but is that because you have a lot to do, or you don’t know how to properly manage your time? Use these four tips to help you balance your work day and actually cross things off of your to-do list. Do you have some tried and true time management tips of your own? I’d love for you to list them in the comments section.