Wise sages and time management experts have reminded us for years that we can never really “save” time. We can only spend it.

How effectively do you spend time? Do you plan your time carefully, treating your minutes and hours as the truly precious resources they are? And even more important, do you spend your hours achieving the personal and professional goals important to you?

How well do you really manage time? To answer this question — and to brush up on the principles of time management — grab a pencil and take this brief “time test.”

Give yourself 1, 2, 3 or no points, according to the following scoring key, as you answer each question:

If your answer is “always,” give yourself 3 points.

If your answer is “usually,” give yourself 2 points.

If your answer is “occasionally” or “sometimes,” give yourself 1 point.

If your answer is “never” or “rarely,” give yourself 0 points.

  1. Do you regularly review long-range goals for your personal and professional life?
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  2. Do you spend a few minutes thinking about and planning your day before you start it?
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  3. Do you outline each day's appointments and key tasks in your calendar?
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  4. Do you list your tasks and activities in priority order and concentrate on the top priorities?
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  5. Do you keep — and use — an ongoing “to do” list, consisting of things you'd like to do in the future?
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  6. Do you handle the most important tasks of the day when you feel most alert?
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  7. Do you group similar tasks together and do them all at the same time?
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  8. When you enter your office or pick up mail, do you immediately discard messages and items you don't need?
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  9. When you're working on a large project, do you break the task down into small chunks and work on one piece of the project at a time?
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  10. Do you shut your door or engage in “quiet time” when you must handle “detail work?”
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  11. Do you keep reference materials, like telephone books, rolodexes and important manuals within arm's reach of your primary work area?
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  12. Do you organize your working tools, like pens, rulers, telephones and equipment so they're ready to use the minute you want them?
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  13. Do you maintain a simple, but well-defined filing system, into which you place all loose papers and materials?
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  14. In completing paperwork, do you handle each piece of paper only once?
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  15. Do you use a dictating machine to handle memos, messages and correspondence?
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  16. Do you skim magazines, journals and reports to learn key information?
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  17. Do you use waiting time and travel time to handle small tasks or catch up on reading?
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  18. Do you make decisions and embark on courses of action quickly?
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  19. When you start a project or task, do you have “backup” plans which can be quickly and easily implemented if your original plans don't work out?
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  20. Do you keep your secretary, assistant or colleagues informed about your work so they can handle minor tasks without interrupting you?
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  21. Do you give clear instructions to subordinates and colleagues — clear enough so they don't have to come back to you with ongoing questions?
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  22. Do you set clear agendas for meetings — and stick to them?
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  23. Do you stop working on a task when you begin to feel stress or a loss of energy?
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  24. Do you keep a simple time log to systematically assess where and how you spend your time?
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  25. Do you take time each week to appraise your productivity and determine whether you've completed the goals you set out to accomplish?
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To determine your “time management quotient,” total the number of points you received on the time test.

If your score ranges between 65 and 75, congratulations! You're a fine time manager and, chances are, you're using your time to get top results in your personal and professional life.

If your score ranges between 45 and 64, not bad. But with some modest improvements in your time management habits, you can probably become more productive each day. If your score ranges between 25 and 44, well, you've got the right idea … but you'll have to work hard to begin using key time management principles in your life.

If your score is below 25, you've got a lot of work to do. With some intensive reading — or even a time management course — you can dramatically improve your work habits and achieve far more than you ever thought possible.

Remember: you can't choose between saving and spending time. The only choice you have lies in how you use your time. Budget it carefully, fervently guard against time-wasting habits, and deploy those precious minutes and hours where they'll bring you the greatest return. Follow these principles and you'll achieve more than swift efficiency; you'll achieve your goals.