I know I could use some fine-tuning in learning to schedule my days — more often than not it seems like my days schedule me.

We all have those long “must do” lists: Work commitments, family duties, personal chores — the items go on and on.

CPE Link instructor Laura Stack, a productivity expert and best-selling author, says your to-do list “should be full of clear, actionable ideas — in other words, things you can actually do. If you have a vague goal, like ‘Have a sale,’ you’ve still got a lot of thinking to do before you can hit the ground running and make real progress.”

One thing I’ve learned recently is that using software to maintain my schedule helps tremendously. I eyed it with suspicion for a few years, thinking about the extra time it would take to open my computer, figure out how the heck to use the scheduling software, enter the data, and then remember how to access it.

At that point I’d just give up and scribble my to-do list on the back on my electric bill envelope, as usual.

Stack points out that using software “can turn into a real waste of time for you and everyone else involved” if it’s not done right. She says that most users only know about 20 percent of scheduling software’s capabilities, and waste hours every day “playing with it” rather than getting the most out of it.

And learning to schedule your day doesn’t mean an endless list of work-related chores, she adds. Your day must include – and in fact must capitalize – on non-work activity.

“Successful people don’t want to trade personal satisfaction for professional achievement,” she says. “They know high performance depends on both. Professionals must be able to balance work and family without sacrificing either.”