Adjusting Your Time Management for Change Part Four
In Adjusting Your Time Management for Change Parts One, Two and Three, we covered creating your schedule, your task management system and how to adapt your system. In this article, I am going to show you how to set your priorities.
Set Your Priorities
Once you have your task management system built and have run it for a while and worked out the bugs, it becomes simply a matter of building the habit of using it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You will find that in the beginning it may feel a bit awkward and time consuming, but once it becomes a habit, it will become much easier to use and your time will become more productive, focused and enjoyable.
At this stage, where I see clients have the most challenges is in setting priorities, especially when there are multiple priorities calling for your attention and they all feel equally important, urgent and needy!
What is a priority really?
- The fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important.
- A thing that is regarded as more important than another.
- The right to take precedence or to proceed before others.
Your priorities are simply what you put first in your decision making process. When you can spend your time with A, B or C – which ever one you choose – that’s your priority!
Fundamentally, people overthink the prioritization process. You will have goals that feel equally important and you will have tasks that feel equally urgent. That’s life.
The prioritization process can become really simple if you build balance into your schedule, answer honestly when someone else requests your time (and adjust your schedule to accommodate their request accordingly) and stay conscious about your choices and what you are saying “yes” and “no” to.
A fan of the K.I.S.S. method – I recommend only three priority classifications:
- Right Now (RN)
- Soon (S)
- When I Can (WIC)
When you are making your task lists – create a column and put a priority for each task. If you have too many in the RN classification, you are either trying to do too many projects at once, or you haven’t clearly ordered how things need to happen. Ask yourself, “what needs to happen before I can do this task” and put things in order – the first thing on that list is the ONLY one that should be classified as RN – everything else is S, right?
In this way, you can narrow your focus to just the tasks that need to happen right now and again, lessen your stress.
Is Setting My Priorities Really That Simple?
When setting your priorities, you are essentially expressing your values – what is most important to you? If you want to know what your values are, look at how you spend your time. It is an unerring guide to what is truly important to you. You can talk a good game about your values, but your actions tell the real story.
However, the story being told is often largely unconscious and complex. The drivers that run our decision making are often unconscious, and that has us spending time differently than how we think we “should.”
Plus, those unconscious drivers can be very sneaky in getting us to justify why we are making certain choices.
For example: “I was playing video games because I just needed to relax! Don’t I have the right to relax?”
Of course you do. But is that the truth, or were you actually avoiding doing something? Do you feel like you have to steal time to relax? Have you built relaxation and down time into your schedule? If it is part of your master schedule why do you need to steal time to relax?
The likely truth is you just feel uncertain about getting to that task you are avoiding so you are playing video games and telling yourself you just need to relax!
Here are a few key questions to help you discover how you have been prioritizing, so that you can begin to make more conscious choices:
- Is this my urgency or someone else’s? Do I also choose this urgency? If so, how does that serve my goals and vision?
- What am I saying “No” to when I say “Yes” to this?
- Does this activity serve my goals? Which goal specifically?
- Which choice brings me closer to my vision and my goals?
- Is this choice in line with my values (as I intend them)?
You will be prioritizing throughout every step of your time management system.
- Designing your master schedule – you choose how much time you will spend in each area of your life.
- Adjusting your master schedule to this week’s schedule – you will again be either confirming or changing how much time you spend on each area of your life.
- Organizing your task management system – there is an organic process of ordering which tasks happen first, how often recurring tasks happen and where on the list each task is situated.
- Implementing the system – you will make on-the-fly decisions about operating in alignment with the system or breaking away from the system.
Each decision and choice is saying “yes” to something and “no” to everything else.
There are no right or wrong choices.
There is not an objective judgment that this is the one right way to spend your time. With every choice you will have outcomes and consequences. If you like your outcomes – do more of that. If you are unhappy with your consequences, look at what you want and make adjustments to achieve just that. Judgments as right and wrong just get in the way of this process.
The key is to become conscious of what you are choosing and bring those choices into alignment with your vision of yourself, your relationships and your life.
Experiment – try stuff out – see if it works. Discover what made one thing work or not work. Repeat and confirm that it does indeed work, then build it into your system. Once you figure out that something works, test another. Testing one thing at a time will enable you to be clear in your observations and enable you to really build a system that will work with consistency.