As the clock ticks and time passes with 60 minutes in every hour and 24 hours in every day, how come some people seem to achieve so much more than others?
If we’re honest, we also know that on some days we achieve much more than on other days. So what’s the difference?!
Experience has shown me that where I focus is where I go.
When I focus on the most important task of the day, that task gets done. When I can’t decide which is the most important task and my attention is divided, or in truth, when I don’t make the time to decide which is the most important task, then – although I can be really busy all day, relatively little progress is made on any front.
There is a huge difference between being busy and being productive.
Sure, there are some ways of being more efficient, that is getting more done in less time, but for me the most dramatic improvements in my time management are achieved through decisions to be more effective, to choose the right task and to tackle it in the right way.
There are many ways of prioritising your work.
One useful way is to use the Stephen Covey way of looking at and balancing the “Important and Urgent” aspects of our work:
In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, we are asked to consider things that are:
- Urgent AND Important
- Important but not Urgent
- Urgent but not Important
- Not Urgent, not Important
In workshops, pretty much everyone agrees we do the urgent and important tasks first. There’s often a heated debate about what to do next. Many people feel that category 3 tasks that are urgent should be next on our list… but if they are not important?? Is it right that we value the urgent more highly than the important?
If we constantly prioritise urgent tasks, more important personal or professional development activities are likely to slip off the list.
In an overloaded and overwhelming workplace perhaps we miss out on time to reflect on our performance or professional development strategies because we’ve got another urgent email to answer. And personally, I can always make time to cook that healthy meal tomorrow but today I’ll just grab a quick pizza because I’m so busy!
There are real solutions to this problem and as I work with my coaching clients we often realise they are more simple than we expect. But it’s rarely a “one size fits all” piece of advice.
What I am happy to share though is, it helps to be clear about things that:
- must be done immediately,
- must be done soon,
- need to be done eventually, and without becoming the black hole into which everything disappears
- can be left undone until others forget or it just goes away.
As you look down your list now, what comes to mind?!