Managing Multiple Priorities
by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
We all have "too much to do." As a professional speaker, I hear that all the time from my audiences. And that says a lot of good things about you, if you have "too much to do" because, obviously, a lot of people have entrusted many things to your care and have confidence in you.
Every priority claims itself as the most urgent and crucial thing in the world screaming for your immediate attention. The problem is, we can only do one thing at a time. So, here are four ideas to help you manage multiple priorities.
1. Keep the focus on personal balance first. Our lives are made up of seven vital areas: Health, Family, Financial, Intellectual, Social, Professional, and Spiritual. We will not necessarily spend time every day in each area or equal amounts of time in each area. But, if, in the long run, we spend a sufficient quantity and quality of time in each area, our lives will be in balance. But if we neglect any one area, never mind two or three, we will eventually sabotage our success. Much like a table, if one leg is longer than the rest, it will make the entire table wobbly.
If we don't take time for health, our family life and social life are hurt. If our financial area is out of balance, we will not be able to focus adequately on our professional goals, etc. As in the medical profession, it is said that you cannot be sick and make other people well. In time management, then, we have to keep ourselves healthy first, in balance first, or it won't matter how many or how important our priorities are, we will not be able to properly handle them.
2. Schedule Daily Planning. I set aside at least 30 minutes each night for daily planning, a time to have a Board of Directors meeting of the most important corporation in the world: Me, Inc. I make up a list of things for the next day that includes not only all the items I "have to" do, but, more importantly, the items I "want to" do. Putting it all down in writing is vital because if you want to manage it, you have to measure it. This will tend to overload your next day, which is useful because it permits us to take advantage of Parkinson's Law, which says, in part, that a project tends to take as long as the time allocated for it. If you give yourself one thing to do, it will take all day to do it. If you give yourself three things to do, you get them all done. If you give yourself twelve things to do, you may not get all twelve done, but may well accomplish nine. Having a lot to do, being a bit overloaded, creates a healthy sense of pressure on us to get through our list.
3. Review each item and ask, "Is this the best use of my time?" There is a lot of difference between "I do it" and "It gets done." Which is more important? "It gets done." Sure, it's great to accomplish things ourselves but we only have 168 hours per week to accomplish results. (And if we take away 56 hours per week for sleep, that only leaves 112 hours!) So, each night during daily planning, I review each item on my list and ask, "Is this the best use of my time?" If it is, I will plan to work on it and if it is not, I will try to find a way to delegate it to someone so that it gets done.
4. Prioritize the list. Typically, our "To Do" lists will contain "crucial" and "not crucial" items. Some items will be more important, some not so important. Typically, the "not crucial" items are quicker and often more fun than the "crucial" items, which tend to take longer and are generally less fun. So what happens for many is that without prioritizing our list, we have a tendency to do the "not crucial" items first, substituting the quantity for the quality. Identify the most important "crucial" item on your list, the one you would want to tackle if you could only work on one item tomorrow and then label that as number 1. Next, identify the second item you would work on, if time permits, and label that as number 2. Continue prioritizing the entire list in that fashion; tomorrow, start with number 1.
These four steps will help you to more effectively manage multiple priorities and increase your daily results and that a good thing.
If these ideas were helpful Dr. Wetmore has prepared an additional article entitled "The Time Management Myth." If you would like a free copy, email your request for "myth" to: ctsem @msn.com
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