Do you ever feel that time has gotten away from you or that there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done? If that’s a familiar feeling, it can help to focus on how much your own decisions play into your calendar’s chaos.
Even with an overscheduled calendar, you’re still making decisions about how to spend your time and how not to spend it. Realizing that you control how you spend your time – down to each minute! – can be the first step to figuring out how to make better decisions about how you do and don’t spend your time.
Priorities – Getting the Important Work Done
The two key questions to ask yourself are: Are you spending most of your time on your most important priorities? And are you spending time on things that aren’t especially high on your priority list?
If you’re not funneling decisions about how to spend your time through this paradigm, you’ll end up allocating your time by default, rather than being strategic about it. Most people who aren’t vigilant about asking these two questions end up picking the tasks that they enjoy most or that are easiest or that are right in front of them or that feel most pressing in the moment. But those might not be the most important things for you to do, and doing them will keep you from higher-importance items.
Instead, you’ll feel more in control of your time if you make deliberate decisions about what’s most important to you, so that you can ensure that – even if not everything gets done – the things that are the most crucial won’t be the ones that fall by the wayside. For examples, let’s say that today you need to meet with your boss, draft a memo, call back a client, and sign off on a report. The meeting with your boss and drafting the memo are the two most important things to do; if you don’t get them done today, you will have jeopardized a major project at work. But if you’re not managing your time well, you might start off the day talking with the client, spend some time chatting with a coworker, and get drawn into a non-urgent meeting about next month’s sales goals. Then at 4:00 p.m., you might realize that you still haven’t written that memo or met with your boss (who is now tied up in a different meeting).
If you had managed your time differently in this example, you still might not have gotten everything done, but if you’d started the day with clarity about what was most important to accomplish today, you could have met with your boss and drafted the memo first thing in the morning so that your most important work for the day was completed, and maybe you might have chosen to avoid that chat with the coworker and pushed off that sales meeting until another day. You might have ended the day with items remaining on your to-do list, but the most crucial ones with the biggest impact would have been crossed off.
That’s really what time management is all about: getting clear on what’s most important to achieve, and then making sure that the way you’re spending your time reflects those choices.
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