You arrive at work and your voice mail light already is on, dozens of e-mails are waiting to be read, co-workers are dropping by to chat, and you're still trying to return a call from yesterday.
That overwhelmed, overcommitted scenario has created a booming time-management industry catering to millions of Americans who want to regain a sense of control in their lives.
Unfortunately, the answers this newly created industry offers can be as complicated as the problems . Getting started can be daunting. Depending on your situation, you may need to strip to the basics -- figure out how to prioritize and understand how you waste time -- or just get a few pointers to accomplish more in a day.
Peggy Duncan, a productivity expert, believes in overhaul.
``For time management to truly work, it has to be a process," Duncan says. ``You have to get organized and that means your papers, your computer files, your in-box, your calendar, and your clothes closet. Everything needs to be logical so you can put your hands on anything."
Getting organized entails mastering technology you use during the day such as a computer or cellphone that can help the process.
Unlike dieting, Duncan says, the results are immediate.
David Allen, the man Fast Company magazine called ``one of the world's most influential thinkers on productivity," has championed the GTD (getting things done) movement, which has attained a cultlike status among overscheduled people.
Allen believes you can do anything but not everything -- and you can only do one thing at a time.
Allen says the biggest time-management mistake is keeping track of commitments in your head. You can use any tool -- a PDA, a planner, Microsoft Outlook -- just get it out of your head.
Once you know the task, figure out the action you need to take within 24 hours , he says.
For example, suppose you write down ``take care of dad's elder-care situation." What does that mean? Allen says once you decide what actions to take -- talk to your sister, talk to your dad -- you have steps that can be completed.
He believes productivity is about completion and advises taking inventory weekly -- sorting through the stuff that has yet to be acted on. If you can get a clear picture , you'll take the next step in deciding on a course and getting it done, he says.
Stephanie Winston, author of ``Organized for Success," studied dozens of senior executives' time-management styles.
She believes they have a whole different approach to completing unfinished tasks and getting things done: They manage for interruptions.
To do this, she says, start by blocking an hour or half-hour each day as power time to accomplish priorities. That may mean coming in early or hiding in the cafeteria to escape interruptions.
Break tasks into 10-minute segments; when you get interrupted, jot a phrase or cue to bring you back into the task later. When people drop in or call, give them your full attention, she suggests.
Ask Wendy Bellissimo, who designs nurseries for celebrities, what an organized day for her looks like -- it's filled with equally urgent priorities and huge chunks of unstructured time.
Each night, she makes a to-do list and checks her calendar for the next day. She keeps a pen and paper next to her bed to jot down thoughts that wake her up at night.
She keeps track of all tasks and appointments on her PDA, which beeps throughout the day with reminders.
Jan Knight of MassMutual Financial Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., discovered that being productive may mean melding systems.
At work she uses her Day-Timer and BlackBerry for to-do lists and call lists. At home, it's much less sophisticated -- Post-it notes. She writes down anything she or her 12-year-old son need to remember as they head out in the morning on a Post-it note and sticks it on the door. ``It's silly, but it works," Knight says.