Let me say from the outset that I do not believe in time management whereas, I do believe in priority management. To allocate the appropriate time to a particular task or priority through strategic planning is vital. In this way, you end up being more effective and productive and less stressed.
So how should you prioritise what is really important and needs doing now?
The key to successful priority management is strategic planning and then protecting the planned time to achieve this. People who say that they have no time do not plan, or fail to protect this. If you plan what to do and when and then stick to it, then you will have time, which is why priority management is a must.
This can be tricky, particularly when you have the demands of others placed on you, such as external customers and colleagues. Priority management requires diplomatically handling the expectations of others and is chiefly about conditioning your environment, rather than allowing your environment to condition you. This is especially important for people who work from home, as there needs to be clear boundaries set between your work and home life.
You should be prepared to make some drastic changes and be creative to find innovative ways of doing things. You must really think about what you do. If you don't know, keep a log of this for a few days and find out. Knowing exactly what's wrong is one of the first steps to improving it. Challenge anything that could be wasting time and effort, particularly habitual tasks such as meetings and reports where responsibility is inherited or delegated to you.
Review your activities in terms of your own personal short-term and long-term life and career goals and prioritise your activities accordingly. Plan preparation and creative thinking time in your calendar for the long-term jobs, because they need it. The short-term urgent tasks will always use up all your time unless you plan to spend it otherwise.
A system I like to employ is the 'urgent-important' method of assessing activities and giving this the appropriate level of priority. But here are some practical, top tips for using priority management:
- Manage your emails and phone calls. Allocate time to do these or you'll never get anything more important and pro-active done
- One-touch handling. When you're faced with a list of things to do, go through them quickly and make a list of what needs doing and when. After this, try handling each piece of paper only once. Do not pick up a piece of paper or start doing a task that you cannot complete
- Do not start lots of jobs at the same time - even if you can handle different tasks at the same time. This is not the most efficient way of dealing with them, so don't pretend that this sort of multi-tasking is good
- Delegate as much as possible to others. If you have one, give 20% of your responsibility to a colleague that reports to you
- Try not saying 'yes' as often. Start by asking what's involved - find out what the real expectations and needs are
- If you can't stop interruptions when you need a quiet space to work, then find somewhere else where you will be able to work uninterrupted when the need arises
- Keep a clean desk and working area. You don't have to be obsessive about tidiness - busy people often make a mess - but ensure that your mess doesn't undermine your effectiveness
By following these easy tasks and implementing priority management into your business, you'll help reduce the amount of stress in your days.