Priorities are the foundation of effective time-management

Setting and know what your priorities are is the key to true time management. I spent the past two posts discussing organizational tools to help you manage time. I started there first to focus on the tools that make time management easier. But sitting down and determining what your priorities are is at the heart of effective time management.

How to determine the order of your priorities

Effective time management requires that you know what you want to accomplish and how to prioritize all the activities required to reach your goal. Your goals can fall into many time horizon ranges including immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals.

You need to define which time range goal each activity falls into to categorize the level of priority to assign it. The level of priority will determine when it needs to get accomplish and when it needs to get accomplished.

Let’s look at the different goal time horizons.

Goal Time Horizons

Immediate range goals are those that can’t wait. These are immediate emergencies or high priority items. These can be a business-critical systems failure, and employee disciplinary situation, or a financial emergency. These are items that can’t be put on the back burner and must be addressed immediately.

Short-term range goals focus on items that while not immediate must get done sooner than later. They can be anything with an end date of anywhere from a day to a month. You may have a little time to accomplish them, but they will be due over a very short period.

Medium-term goals are generally those that need to be accomplished within a month to one-year. These goals take more planning and resources than short-term goals. While you have more time to accomplish these goals you need to keep them on your radar to avoid losing focus.

Long-term goals are any goals that are more than a year into the future. These are often larger projects that require a great deal of planning and groundwork to prepare for. It is important to set up monthly or quarterly checkups to ensure you stay on track with these goals.

How to use goal time horizons to set daily priorities

Now that we understand goal time horizons we can see how we can use them to establish daily priorities.

Good time management always begins the night before. Every evening you should sit down and review your priorities for the coming day. Once a week you should make time to review your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. I have read and have found it useful to sit down on Sunday evening to go over these goals.

Whatever time you choose for your daily and weekly reviews be consistent with it. Perform this review at the same time every day. Make it a habit so that you will be more likely to do it consistently.

Daily Reviews

For your daily review start by writing down any immediate items you know will require your attention the next day. If you don’t have any make sure to keep in mind that there will be some and you will want to build some cushion into your schedule for dealing with those items.

Next, review your short-term goals and write down all the activities you need to accomplish to meet those goals. If you have specific items that will take a specific time to complete schedule them.

Finally, review your medium-term and long-term goals to determine if any actions need to be taken on them over the next day. If so, put those activities on your schedule.

Weekly Review

When performing your weekly review, you should focus more on the medium-term and long-term goals. Because these are longer time-horizon goals you need to only spend time with them once a week. This frees you up during the week to focus more on the immediate and short-term goals.

During your weekly review you want to focus on what needs to be done, and by when, to accomplish these medium and long-term goals. Decide what tasks need to be accomplished in the coming week and put them on your schedule for the week. Then when you perform your daily review you can schedule around these longer-term tasks.

In Summary

Priorities are the key to your time-management activities. Using your time effectively requires that you have a firm understanding of what your goals are and the time-horizon for your goals. This will allow you to focus on more immediate items while keeping a focus on goals with longer time horizons.

Performing daily reviews allows you to always stay focused on immediate and short-term goals. Staying focused in the near term will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Weekly tasks allow you to evaluate what you need to work on in regards your medium-term and long-term goals and get them on your schedule in a way that balances your time in dealing with shorter-term priorities.

Time management is about balance. You need to balance your time between the things you can control and the things you can’t. It is a balance between the planned and unplanned. Life is imperfect, and you must remain flexible. If you follow this plan and make use the tools we discussed in the previous posts you will find greater peace and control in how you manage your time.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Time-Management Basics – Part 1

5S Your Work Space- Part 2

Your Calendar is Key to Managing Your Time and Priorities – Part 3