Time management is essential in our high-speed, always-on culture, yet most advice you'll find on this topic is pretty vague. "Setting goals" and "making time work for you" are, um, great, but so are practical efficiencies. Because oDesk is home to thousands of self-starting contract workers, we've seen many efficiency tricks


  The headline promises five steps for time management, but they all come from a single principle: You can only do one thing at a time, so do it right


  Finish what you've started. This is the core idea: Where possible, working a single task to completion is more efficient. When you sit down to work, you spend a few minutes just getting "settled in" before you're productive. If you jump from task to half-finished task all the time, that's a lot of minutes lost to "rolling up your sleeves."


Think small. You can't always spend several hours working straight through on a single big job. Don't think in those terms. Use a simple to-do list, and take each item to completion without interruption, unless something's literally on fire. An example for the job-seeker: It's not "I'll look for jobs this afternoon," it's checking email for replies to previous applications, scanning preferred job sites, writing cover letters, and tweaking your resume for each solid lead, etc


  Quit stalling. Once you're organizing by simple components, it's easier to dive right into the small tasks. It takes a lot of warm up and deep breaths before you jump off a high-dive and we're less hesitant about walking down a flight of steps


  Play well with others. When you're working as part of a team, make sure you're prioritizing what you do to get the most important parts into the production line. Nothing's worse than having people stand around waiting for you to produce. In a job search, prioritize anyone who's waiting to hear from you; hiring managers looking for self-starters (and who isn't?) will appreciate and remember your promptness


Analyze your output. How could you have been more efficient? How much of your time goes to trivial, mundane work rather than the challenging stuff you enjoy and that your boss values? Job-seekers, log the time you spend at various job sites, and count how many real leads that effort yields. This way you can reprioritize your efforts for high value results. Why are you still lurking on that job board that dried up two years ago?


  It's a multitasking world, and there's no changing it. But when a dozen things are clamoring for your attention, you can still organize them on your terms