Any kind of “time management” or “personal productivity” system needs you to choose priorities.
Priorities are also one of the hardest things to set. human nature plays a big part:
If someone is standing in front of me then do they have a higher priority than the person who left?
If the phone rings then does the person on the other end have a higher priority than the person in front of me?
If the person asking me to do something is a friend then is their priority more important than the client who I don’t much like?
If I have 20 things on my “To DO” list do I just do them in order … top to bottom or bottom to top? Where does number 21 fall on the list?
If I have 20 things on my To Do list do I just do the ones I like to do first?
We can all relate to the above scenarios so if you don’t prioritise properly then you just default to whatever feels right at the time.
Unfortunately there is no good news here, because setting priorities is very tough. Here are some thoughts:
1. If you are in sales … the actions that lead to the sale are the most important in your list.
2. Steven Covey uses the 4 quadrant theory … asking whether things are Important or Urgent.
a. Important and Urgent … top of pile, but try to plan them better.
b. Important and not Urgent … next on the list and where you should spend the most of your time.
c. Not Important and Urgent … as you can but do you REALLY need to do it at all.
d. Not Important and Not urgent … take them off the list, unless you have tons of time on your hands.
3. Other questions that might help in prioritising tasks …
a. Is this for a client?
b. Is this for a boss?
c. Is this for a family member?
d. Is this going to help me in my job … or someone else?
e. Is this going to affect a chain of events? Are other people depending upon me to get my bit done before they can do theirs?
f. Is there a hard time deadline?
g. Is it satisfying?
h. Can I do it? Can I do it in the time allotted?
Those who are MOST efficient will find ways to get their most important work done … and the way they do that is to always work on the most important stuff first. it is different for every role that you will have throughout your career … but when you master that role you will have figured out what is most important.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)