People love to talk about “time management” as though it’s something that can be done.
The truth is, time cannot be managed. But, it can be used wisely. We’re all given the same 1,440 minutes in each day.
What we do with those moments is what counts.
For most everyone I know, there never seems to be enough time in the day.
I, too, fall into that category.
But to be effective, I find it helpful to think, not in terms of managing time, but instead of “managing priorities.”
Here are three tips for successful prioritization:
- 1. Define your top 3-4 priorities. You cannot conquer everything all at once. Think of what you MUST DO at a given time. So that I don’t fall prey to the tyranny of the “urgent”, I consistently remind myself that it’s better to do three things well than a dozen things half-heartedly. And, let’s be reasonable, in all likelihood there are only three or four things that MUST be tended to. Other items can wait. That’s the art of prioritizing!
Get specific about what key areas of accountability you have, or what projects or strategic initiatives require your attention. What are you trying to achieve? What makes you happy? What is important to you? What will your performance be judged upon? Know the answers to these questions and deploy a method or system whereby you devote your time to executing daily or weekly on those tasks.
- 2. Measure your effort. I have a colleague who uses a written narrative of the progress she makes each week on her key priorities. That narrative is then forwarded on her to boss every Friday afternoon. This tool allows her to stay on track with her priorities by consistently monitoring her progress and producing a record of your actions. Think of a food diary. It can be very impactful to see the foods you eat in writing. You may not realize just how many calories you are consuming until you actually write it down. Such a record enables you to acknowledge where you’re at, and to progress from there.
Further, when you show that food diary to your nutritionist or your coach, chances are you don’t want it to be over-run with Big Macs and Frappuccinos. You have someone on the receiving end of your record to hold you accountable to your goals. Same goes for my colleague. Her boss has come to expect these valuable updates. She knows there is someone who anticipates that she will be chipping away at those priorities, and that can be a very powerful motivator. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that she has streamlined the communication process between her and her boss!
You may not like to write everything down. Perhaps you prefer just to have a flag on your calendar reminding you to block out dedicated blocks of time to focus on the two or three tasks you must tend to first.
- 3. Frequently evaluate and adjust. Make a point to frequently (weekly, monthly…..whatever works for you) revisit your list of priorities and your progress against those items. Measure your success, and adjust as needed.
Remember, what gets measured gets managed!
Your method of choice may be different than mine, but whatever the case, find a system that holds you both accountable to your goals and enables you to consistently adjust your priorities, given circumstances at the time.
Consistently prioritize and act on those priorities. Be intentional, or life’s responsibilities and tasks can turn into chaos and, instead of your managing that collective chaos, IT WILL MANAGE YOU.