In our experience, poor time management is very often a symptom of poor planning. If you begin each day without a plan you’re likely to jump from random task to random task. And by the end of a busy day, you may actually be no closer to achieving your goals. It’s frustrating, and we’ve all been there. What can we do about it? Step 1 might be to distinguish between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ tasks and to know which you should be spending time on, and why. Just as increased productivity is unlikely without sound time management, sound time management is unlikely without effective planning. For tips to help you plan, read more.
Start by reminding yourself of the difference between your vision and goals. While your vision is a big-picture, long-term view, goals define the tasks that need to be taken in the short and medium-term. It’s these tasks that should be on your daily plan. They are ‘important’ activities, so called because they lead you towards achieving one or more of your business goals. Clearly, your daily plan should include a high proportion of ‘important’ tasks.
In real life, however, many of us spend too much of our time on so called ‘urgent’ activities. The latter command our immediate attention in the form of emails or phone calls that threaten to interrupt our priorities. Unlike ‘important’ tasks, ‘urgent’ tasks are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals (see our post on saying “No”). Because ‘urgent’ tasks seem demanding, and the consequences of not dealing with them appear to be immediate, it’s tempting to forfeit time on them that we had allocated for important matters.
All so called ‘urgent’ tasks need to be evaluated, and those that are genuinely urgent should be actioned appropriately. This can include delegation to someone else and allocation to an appropriate time slot where it can enjoy your undivided attention.
The not-so-urgent tasks require a planning strategy where you start by acknowledging the request before asking a very important question – when? If you ask “When?”, you may find the outcome is required in days or weeks, rather than within the minutes or hours you might have assumed.
These three tips will help you plan thoughtfully and spend time on the tasks that really matter.
- Make sure your daily plan reflects your vision and (especially) your goals – that is, it should include ‘important’ tasks.
- Recognise a so called ‘urgent’ task for what it is – a distraction.
- Put in place planning strategies for dealing with non-urgent tasks.
When you take this approach, you’ll increase your productivity while dispelling the anxiety that comes with trying to do too much. Once you have recognised the impact of so called urgent requests, empower your team to do likewise and re-evaluate their own to do lists. For both you and your team, this will include prioritising tasks in accordance with what’s important for the business and what is simply a disruption that obstructs progress towards your business goals.
There’s probably no easier way to pass the time (and waste it) than to spend it on ‘urgent’ tasks rather than ‘important’ tasks. Now that you know the difference, your challenge is clear …