If you’ve ever wondered where the day (or week) went, you’re not alone. It can be easy to lose track of time at work. Research shows that office-based professionals spend an average of two hours every day browsing their email inbox, with more than half of them saying they lose focus from all the scrolling and responding. Professionals also get sidetracked chatting with colleagues or addressing all the various pings, notifications and alerts on their phones and computers. And when it comes to meetings, the average professional spends at least three hours in them per week, according to Zippia.

Despite these distractions and responsibilities, many professionals manage to keep a handle on their day and make the most of their time. Wondering how they do it? Mary Kelly, an author, coach and speaker, has outlined five indicators of excellent time-management skills. We discuss her thoughts in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

1. They adhere to their schedule. Time-management masters know what they need to do, and they stay the course. Kelly says that even with interruptions, they complete their tasks on time. They also create the next day’s to-do list and focus on one thing at a time. Rather than worrying about other details, they stay focused on what they are working on in the moment.

2. They plan ahead. Those who make the most of their time have mapped out what they will do a week from now and a month from now. Planning ahead means setting weekly, monthly and yearly goals, and adjusting your schedule to achieve those goals, Kelly says. These professionals also keep an open mind, recognizing that anything is possible but that sometimes things won’t go the way they expected. So, they plan for contingencies.

3. They prioritize. A lack of prioritization is one of the biggest roadblocks to effectively managing your time. If you don’t know what task is most important, you’ll often end up all over the place. Kelly recommends establishing your MITs, which stands for Most Important Tasks. These are what must be accomplished by a certain deadline. You can add new items to your to-do list, but never at the expense of your MITs.

4. They don’t multitask. Switching back and forth between different tasks can drain your focus, energy and creativity. To avoid being distracted, focus on doing one thing at a time, and say no to interruptions, Kelly says. When you easily say no to distractions, and you can quickly refocus, you have mastered that aspect of time management.

5. They decline the unnecessary. Time-management masters know the power of saying no. When they’re supposed to be working on a specific task, they don’t let meeting requests or time-wasting activities distract them.

Strong time-management skills are essential to your success at work and in life. If you always feel like you’re playing catch-up, consider how you can apply the points above.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Mary Kelly is an economist, keynote speaker, coach and trainer. She has written more than a dozen books on business growth, leadership and the economy.