You Can Do It

When you apply your time, interest and energy to making the most of each day by prioritising tasks, you will experience more returns on your investment, you will have more time to be creative and you will be at peace with yourself. Ultimately you have the power to set the vital priorities which will mean the difference between failure, survival and success. Only through taking action will you change your life for the better and you will find that attention to detail by prioritising your work will result in excellence and the achievement of your goal.

How to Set Priorities

Organisation: If you are disorganised it is the product of a lack of planning. The first priority is to unclutter your life. You will get so much more done in a given time if you know where everything is and you have a clear desk. A cluttered office has its own unique way of taking control of what you do. Get rid of any unnecessary items and store or file papers no longer required for action. A very important item is your diary. It should not be used just for appointments; a diary should be a central planning and organisational tool. It is where you combine all the different sources of personal references into one area. Keep your diary with you at all times and use it frequently. A properly kept diary will unclutter your mind and leave you free to focus on just one thing at a time.

The conscious mind focuses effectively on only one thing at a time so to be well organised and to stay well organised, apply the concept of focusing on only one thing at a time to all areas of your life. If you approach every task in an organised, conscientious manner, the outcome will not be left to chance. Your reason for being organised is so that you will be able to manage and control all aspects of your life as easily as possible. It then allows you the freedom to concentrate and focus on the most important tasks whose completion will bring the best results for each day.

Learn How to Handle Changes to your Schedule: Even when you have rid yourself of the time wasters, emergencies will erupt and unforeseen events will disturb your plans; appointments and even decisions will need to be changed. When these things happen it is wise to have an alternative course of action ready. It might be wise to add Plan B to that Plan A you have devised. That is all part of planning.

Plan Daily for Success: The effective management of your time means you will need to prioritise the tasks that will have the biggest impact on the achievement of your goal. Often you will find that the most important tasks are also the most difficult but do them anyway. You will probably be drawn to do the easy tasks first, but too often, if you take that path, you will find you will never get to the very job that needed to be done. Unfortunately, those things that are easy to do rarely have a positive impact on your overall goal. Instead, to manage your time effectively, choose the difficult and important tasks you have been putting off and make them a priority. Do not try to focus on a number of tasks at once or the results will be poor and incomplete.

When you prioritise the most important tasks and work on them until they are complete, you will get more done in a shorter period of time with better quality of work. You will not be distracted by less important tasks and you will add real value to your day. Perhaps you have heard of Pareto’s 80/20 rule. This rule says that, in many business activities, 80 percent of the potential value can be achieved from just 20 percent of the effort and that one can spend the remaining 80% of effort for relatively little return. This means that if you have a list of ten tasks, two of these tasks will be more important than the rest of them combined. They are, therefore, the most valuable use of your time and they are the ones you should concentrate on completing first because they will give you the most return for your effort.

Plan Ahead: Plan your work and then work your plan. There are a number of action plans and to-do lists that can help with your weekly and daily planning. It begins with knowing the difference between what is important and what is urgent. Stephen Covey, in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, classifies work tasks according to whether they are important or urgent. He divides a square into four boxes. The top two boxes are headed ‘Important’ and they are divided into Urgent and important and Important but not Urgent. The bottom two boxes are headed ‘Not Important’ and they are divided into Urgent but not important and Not Urgent and not Important. He points out that many of us spend too much time on tasks that are urgent and important, by rushing around solving problems and putting out fires, instead of giving priority to work that is important but not urgent. His point is that if you prioritise and attend to the important but not urgent tasks, you will rarely have to handle tasks that are urgent and important. Although this can be difficult to do on any given day (sometimes there are demands at short notice which are unavoidable), it is the only way to ensure you are making progress towards your own goals, instead of merely reacting to what other people throw at you. Working your plan means cutting out non-essential tasks like those in the bottom two boxes; it means majoring in planning ahead instead of putting out fires.

Business owners, particularly, can thrive by separating ‘importance’ and ‘urgency’. If they organise their time effectively they will accomplish their most important goals. Identifying and addressing business priorities are crucial to growing a healthy business operation and pursuing personal goals.

Make sure the tasks you assign yourself are in alignment with your goals. If they are not, re-evaluate their importance and the priority you give them. Completing high value tasks will give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in life and will raise your self-esteem because you know that you are good at what you do.

Your ‘To-Do’ List: Perhaps the following sounds too simple, but it is effective and carried out daily by those who have reached the pinnacle of success. As a result they are able to effectively manage their time throughout their day.

At the end of your day write down a list of the tasks you have to do the next day. Then number the items in the order of their real importance. First thing next morning concentrate your effort on priority number one and stay with it until it is completed. Next take number two and don’t go any further until it is completed. Then proceed to number three and so on. If you are unable to complete everything in the one day, add the items you have not yet tackled to your list for the next day and re-set your priorities. Do this every day. Continue to evaluate the relative importance of the tasks that must be done, establish priorities and record your plan of action and stick to it.

It is important to write down all your tasks to help you keep your time and efforts on track and to reduce distractions. The purpose of the list is to help you stay organised so that you can accomplish your goals. Remember to leave space to add new tasks which may have been forgotten or are brought to your attention the next day. Remember, too, that priorities can change and this will be reflected in your list as you revise it each day. Keeping your list simple and useable is the key to its effectiveness.

Give yourself a certain amount of time to work on each task. Be careful not to underestimate your time as tasks can often take longer than expected, sometimes twice the time originally thought. During that time, focus your mind on the highest task at hand and don’t touch anything else on your list. One of the many advantages of working with a list is that it allows you to concentrate and focus on your most important tasks. This will noticeably increase your productivity as you will not be wasting time on less important tasks and you will find yourself progressing faster than when you tried to focus on many tasks at once. Confining your efforts only to the essential things means that working your plans may be more easily achieved than when you tried to do everything in a haphazard manner.

It may happen that some tasks never rise to top priority and thus never get done. You may copy them from day to day but there are always more important tasks to complete. Sometimes you might find that some of these items are really not going to help you reach your goal so it may be necessary to put them aside for a while, or maybe, permanently. Some things are just not worth doing.

Remember to make your schedule realistic and achievable. Don’t try to put too many items on the list and do allow some down time for yourself in your day so that you don’t burn yourself out.

Time

Time is your most precious asset and you should value it more than money. When you spend money, you can always get more. Once you have spent time, however, it is gone and can never return. As a result, time has great value so it is wise to invest in understanding it better. We are all given the same amount of time each day and what you do with that time will determine your ultimate success.

We are told, “Time is money and must be spent wisely”. Have we any choice not to spend it? Yes! In his book, Wink and Grow Rich, Roger Hamilton tells us we can spend time or we can invest in time. When we spend time we will see very little for the time spent. However, if we invest in time we have something to show for it. He says, “When you spend your time, you may have gotten something, but you haven’t built anything. When you invest your time, you end that day or that week having built something that is lasting.” He also said, “Show me how a man spends and invests his time and I will show you his future”.

The problem of having enough time does not lie with time itself. The problem lies with us. Time is a measurement – a dimension; therefore, time cannot be our problem. The problem is and has been not time, but ourselves. Fortunately we can do something about it. By prioritising our work and giving each task only the time that it deserves, we can use time to our advantage.

Managing your time finally gets down to the way you manage yourself. The trail ends with the individual; how you plan, how you organise and how you control your activities. It is what you do with your time that matters most. You cannot delay the clock or hasten it. You cannot buy time or give it away. You have exactly the same number of minutes as everyone else so manage your activities with respect to time.

Time Wasting: Poor planning is the chief of time wasters. Keep an inventory of your time for one week and track how you spend your time. This will help you identify your time wasters and aid you in making a decision to get priorities in order. Some well-known time wasters include telephone interruptions, drop in visitors, lack of self-discipline, personal disorganisation, attempting too much, an inability to say ‘no’ and indecision.

Don’t allow other people to impose their time frames on you. Set a value on your time. If someone is late for an appointment, allow a certain amount of time to wait and no more. Some people like to take up your time with small talk because they have time to spare; accepting unnecessary delays, taking long tea breaks and even longer lunches are all thieves of time.

Being able to make and keep a schedule is fundamental to efficiently managing your time. Thirty percent of that time can be wasted going backwards and forwards from task to task. Undefined goals and undefined priorities are two of the biggest factors which sap efficiency and productivity.

You can waste a lot of time rushing around trying to solve problems and responding to other people’s demands at short notice. Distractions like these waste a lot of time. There will be times you will need to depart from your schedule to handle a problem that has arisen but you should not have to work like that most of the time. It may be necessary, sometimes, to refuse requests from others if they intrude too much on your schedule of priorities.

One of the biggest problems is being overwhelmed by your workload because you have not learned how to prioritise and not knowing how to say ‘no’ to people trying to add to your workload so they can lighten theirs. Some requests, of course, cannot be refused but it takes knowledge and skill to know what you need to add to your schedule and what you can leave to someone else.

You have control over the time you are given so don’t under-estimate the time required to carry out given tasks. This results in far less being done in a typical day than expected. When you resolve to set priorities – that of concentrating on essentials – you will find that you accomplish the greatest possible results for the effort expended when you allow enough time to complete each task.

Setting priorities avoids the weakness of indecision. It also precludes having a cluttered desk in which you wonder where to begin and so start at the top of the stack of papers, whether it is important or not. By writing down the tasks that need to be accomplished, in order of priority, the indecision which can be your deadly enemy and certainly a time-waster, can be considerably reduced.

Don’t procrastinate. Set time limits. It is a well known rule that tasks can expand to fill the space and time available. The more time you have to work on a project the more time it takes to get it done. More isn’t always better. And don’t wait until the last minute to get some thing done. We cannot accumulate minutes from today and use them tomorrow. Do it now, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It seems so easy to say “I’ll do that tomorrow” because you don’t feel like doing it today, but it is dangerous. Those delayed decisions and actions actually create more work for you later. There is a saying, “Tomorrow is the road that leads to the town called Never”. Procrastination and frustration are treacherous partners. Many people who are unhappy and failing to achieve somehow believe they will be happy and successful tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes and those people continue to fail. When tomorrow becomes today we will either reap bountifully for what we did or pay dearly for what we did not do today. Time is limited so do it now.

Is Prioritising Important?

It has been said that time is on your side from the moment you organise it and the best way to do that is to prioritise your work.

When you set your main goal in life it is likely that you put a time line to it, that is, you decided you would expect to accomplish your goal in, say, five years. During that five year period you would have set smaller, manageable goals and planned to reach those goals in shorter time frames on the way to your main goal. Without that organised planning and following action, you would never reach any of your goals.

Many people find it relatively easy to set long and medium term goals (macro goals) but fail to realise that if they are unable to accomplish their day-to-day goals (micro goals), the main goals will never be achieved. It’s the day-to-day actions that will allow you to keep on track to achieve all your goals.

Organising and managing your time will enable you to work smarter rather than harder. Everyone has the same amount of time so it is vitally important how you use it as it will decide your thoughts, attitudes and quality of life. Take responsibility for the way you use time and if you get the best value from each minute you can make time serve you rather than you serve time. Understanding where you can spend time most effectively requires concentration in three areas: doing what you enjoy; concentrating on your strengths and understanding job excellence.

The most successful planners spend some quiet time at the end of the period (day or week) planning for the next period. They write out a list of their tasks for the next day and prioritise them. They know that without planning and prioritising their work their efforts will be scattered and bring ultimate failure. Plan each day carefully and do all you can to stick to your schedule. Learn to be aware when you are wasting time or when others are wasting your time. Put a value on everything you do and tackle the most valuable tasks first. Organising your priorities and taking positive action is essential for vital and dynamic growth.

To be successful you will need to maintain daily concentration and focus for your work to be effective. It is important to concentrate on one task at a time and focus your effort on it for you to perform to the best of your ability. There is a line in a song which says, “Out of little things, big things grow” and it is out of your daily decisions that success grows. That is why it is so important to prioritise your work each day.

Learning to manage your time every day is a crucial part of long-term success in achieving your goals. If you recognise the need to prioritise and use the system in your day-to-day efforts you will see progressive and positive results in your own performance.