• James Woodfall

How to be more effective at managing your time

Do you ever feel like you never have enough time to get everything done, and are not sure what to prioritise first? It is highly likely that the answer is yes, as time management is something we have to consistently deal with in our busy lives. As we juggle our work, personal projects, families and friends it can sometimes feel a lot to manage.

One of my favourite time management tools comes from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. It is the well known graphic below:

I discussed this with a client recently in a coaching session and in addition to these 4 categories, we talked about what is “your agenda” versus “someone else’s agenda”.

The simple concept with this table is to categorise your outstanding tasks into each of the headings. If you keep a daily to-do list, and I highly recommend you do, then you can use this as a way of prioritising what you need to do that day. Urgent and important tasks have top priority on your to do list. Identifying these tasks should be relatively easy, whereas the other 3 might be harder to differentiate.

This is why thinking about what is “your agenda” versus “someone else’s” agenda, is helpful in working out the difference. In an ideal world, we would only deal with important tasks. “Your agenda” consists of the tasks that are important to you. “Someone else’s agenda” are those tasks that are maybe not all that important to you.

If you are employed and your boss asks you to do something because it is “urgent”, it may well be and as your boss told you it was, you have to do it. It may not be important to you though, it maybe important to them and so will be their agenda, not yours. If you run your own business, you can still end up doing work that is not on your agenda and sometimes you have to. Let’s revisit the four categories again with a different lens:

Urgent and important - your agenda, these tasks are important to you and take priority

Urgent but not important - usually someone else’s agenda, we have to get these done, but they are not important to us

Not urgent but important - your agenda and in an ideal world these would be your second priority tasks

Not urgent and not important - usually someone else’s agenda and these are lowest priority tasks, which you

Sometimes we can get mislead into thinking that urgent tasks need to be completed first. What this means is that we are not prioritising what is important to us all the time. Instead, where you can, prioritise your own agenda above someone else’s.

What could the ideal world look like where we only focus on tasks that are important to us? One where we delegate effectively, and get rid of some tasks completely. If you work in an organisation, you may be able to push back on your boss and have someone else carry out an urgent but not important task. In a small business, your team are there to support you in growing the company and should be picking up work that frees you up to focus on important tasks only. If you identify something as not urgent or important, then it begs the question, why is it on the task list in the first place?

If you struggle with time management and feel you could be more productive, that is something we can explore through executive coaching so contact me by email and we can talk.

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