Managing Multiple Priorities
Adapted from Mindtools.com
Some surprising results from a study at the University of Connecticut indicate that Americans have 27% more time than they thought. If that’s the case why do wish for more hours in the day? What is robbing us of our time?
1. Other people’s priorities can become your priorities. Have you ever been talked in to something that you really didn’t want to participate in? Mary agreed to volunteer at her child’s school function even though she really didn’t have the time. Because he was the block leader for a charity the year before, Jack was asked to once again fill that role. He grudgingly agreed to it.
How much time would be freed up if you were able to say no to activities you really didn’t want to participate in? We need to recognize when we are being tugged in a direction we really don’t want to go in and then have the courage to just say no.
2. Failure to keep a to do list. The key to using a list is to prioritize the items. Most people use an A to D type system.
3. Failure to set personal goals. If you don’t know where you will be in six months or in a year then its time to set some personal goals. Goals are important because they give you a direction to work toward. When you know where you want to go you can manage your time much better. If you don’t then other people’s priorities become your priorities. Goals help you recognize the important activities from the ones that aren’t important.
4. Failure to manage distractions. Some studies indicate that we can lose up to two hours a day due to distractions! Set aside a section of time each day to respond to emails. You waste time when you check it throughout the day. Manage interruptions. Let people know when they are taking you away from your priorities. If you have a door close it during set periods in the day to complete those important tasks. One person we know uses a traffic light system (made of round disks from construction paper) whereby she closes her office door two hours each day. A red “light” means do not come in unless it is a dire emergency. A yellow disk tells the potential visitor that it had better be important while a green light signals it is OK to enter.
5. Taking on too much. Some people have a very hard time saying no. They can wind up feeling stressed, underperforming, and becoming resentful. If you take on too much you can get a reputation for producing sloppy work or work that is often late. Taking on too much can also apply to our personal lives.
6. Being addicted to “busy.” Are you the type of person who gets a rush from being busy? Some people get a buzz from rushing to meetings, just barely making deadlines, and having piles of files on their desk that need attention. Being busy has become a status symbol in our culture. The implication is that if you are not busy then you must not be producing. Next time you’re with a group of people notice how many of them are talking (bragging) about how busy they are.
7. Not taking breaks. It’s impossible for people to work 8-10 hours straight and produce high quality work. As Stephen Covey says, “Some people are too busy driving around town to stop and get gas.” Experts say we should get up and take a ten-minute break every two hours. We’ll be more productive in the long run.
One of the best ways to improve your productivity is to recognize time management mistakes. Most of us were never taught how to effectively manage our time. Your time is important. In fact, time is so important we equate it to money: we spend it, we waste it, we invest it, we save it, and we borrow it. With practice you can learn to manage your time and thereby experience less stress and improve your productivity.