Time Management has changed. It is no longer about getting it all done, it’s about making smart choices about how to spend your time. Time Management theorists have been discussing methods for identifying what to do next for years. While in concept it would be great to have these options, all too often we spend our days putting out fires and doing what we have to do. By setting priorities we make better choices about which tasks we spend our time on. This results in fewer “fires,” greater satisfaction and better results. Over the years I’ve found the following process helps my clients in clarifying priorities:
1. SET GOALS – this helps you to become clear on what is really important to you. The process doesn’t need to take a long time. I suggest to my clients that they create one action statement for each relevant life area such as family, business, self-care, community, leisure, etc.
2. MATCH TASKS TO GOALS – when making a decision about if you should do something or not, determine if doing the task will assist you in meeting your goals. By thinking about the task in context to what is important to you/your goals, you will gain better insight and make better decisions. You might also notice:
- that a task you’ve been doing a long time no longer serves you.
- that doing something because you think you “should” just isn’t a good enough reason anymore
- that you are spending time on things that don’t have the highest pay-back
3. CREATE A FILTER LIST – before you say yes to a task, a position, or an opportunity run it through a list you’ve created for yourself. There are no standard questions that should be on your list – this is your list, you get to create it and you get to evaluate it. What is important is that you are clear in determining what is important to you. Here are some questions you may want to include:
- Will it help me to reach my goals?
- Will it help me grow my business?
- Will it help someone who is important to me?
- Will it give me joy?
- Will I have fun doing it?
4. BECOME OK ABOUT SAYING “NO” – not just to others, but also to yourself. Giving up opportunities is hard, but never accomplishing anything important is harder. If you want to be true to yourself, saying “NO” is an important part of the process.
The final step is determining just how much time, energy and effort you want to put into a task you’ve decided is important to do. For this, we go to 80/20 rule or Pareto’s Principle – you get 80% of the results in 20% of the time. To get 100% of the results takes 80% longer. That means you can get it done fairly well in 1/5th of the time. For example I could write a really good blog post in an hour, or I could write a perfect blog post in 5 hours. I need to decide which things need to be perfect and which things are sufficient when they are really good. You can decide that too – that’s all part of setting priorities. I hope my 80% effort has inspired you to make smarter decisions about how you spend your time.