If you were to google “Personal productivity” right now, a recurrent topic that would come up would be time management. We all have the same 24 hours a day yet not everyone gets the same returns from their 24 hours. This is because time management is actually a misnomer. You can’t manage time. It’s always there and it’s always flowing even if you aren’t doing anything. What you can manage are tasks and by extension, your priority.
Quite a few people struggle with prioritisation. This is not often a big problem if you are working in a junior role. It’s more likely someone else is responsible for deciding what you should be working on but as you move up the ladder, you start managing teams and are often responsible for project failures and successes. At that point, it’s impossible for you to do everything yourself. The people who succeed at this level are those who figure out:
- What they should be doing personally.
- What they should delegate to someone else.
Unfortunately, many people don’t get a lesson in how to set effective priorities. They probably got promoted because they were hard workers in a junior role and someone thought they’d be able to take on more responsibilities. The task management skills useful for succeeding when someone else is responsible for assigning you tasks don’t work when you become the task master.
If you have found yourself working on tasks that aren’t in line with what should be your daily priorities, there are steps you can take:
- Pick an hour each day. It could be the first hour after you wake up, the first hour after you arrive at work or the hour after your morning meeting. It’s important that you pick an hour around the same time each day so you can incorporate it into your schedule.
- During that hour, do only ONE THING. This should be a task that you have identified as being so important for the day that if it’s the only task you complete that day, your day would still be a success. This task has to be one that can only be completed by you. It should not be something that you can delegate.
- During that hour, resist the urge to be distracted. Don’t chat at the water dispenser. Don’t check your phone. Just do the task.
- Once the task is done, take a 15-minute break before moving on to something else.
It can seem counterintuitive but successful people aren’t often the people who get the most tasks done. Rather, they are the people who have identified the one thing they should be doing well and have found others to do everything else. It’s the reason why the first task that gets outsourced by those who can afford to is laundry. Having clean clothes is a necessity. However, it need not be done by you. Perhaps you should think about that the next time you have to choose between tasks.