When there is a long time between my posts, it’s a sign that I have a lot going on in my life. Many of my clients beg me for help with time management, as they have a lot going on in their lives, too.
What I teach them is that time management is about making choices. The key question when managing one’s time is: how should I be spending my time right now?
The answer to that question depends on the day, sometimes even on the hour or minute. Prioritization is the key. If you have to be at a meeting in an hour and you haven’t yet finished the document you are expected to bring, then that is clearly what you should be working on. (Unless there is no way for you to finish the document in time – in which case you should be working on rescheduling the meeting!)
The importance of a task can vary from day to day. On April 14, mailing your tax returns is not necessarily at the top of your list. However, on April 15, it’s your number one priority. Similarly, something that is number one today may suddenly fall to the bottom of your list if, for example, an appointment gets postponed.
I find it useful to look at my task list each day and identify the things that must be done today. Getting them done first will ensure that I meet my commitments. If I have any discretionary time left once those are done, I can review the rest of the list and decide if I should get a head start on something that isn’t due yet, or if I have license to take a break.
I’m a night person, so I often stay up after everyone else has gone to bed to finish up anything that I needed to get done today. It’s a very productive time for me because there are no interruptions. Morning people do just the opposite: wake up before everyone else and use the uninterrupted time productively.
So next time you feel overwhelmed by responsibilities and paralyzed about what to tackle next, ask yourself what has the largest consequences if you miss finishing it on time? That’s what you should be doing right now.