Every time-management seminar that you will attend teaches the importance of prioritizing your tasks. Task A is the most important, so plan to do it first. Task B is second in importance, so do it next, etc. Unfortunately, many of these time-management techniques get you so involved in managing the mundane tasks of life, that this is what we focus on. We are stuck in “the thick of thin things” to quote Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
The truth is, no amount of simple task prioritizing will help you achieve your dreams until you first determine the highest priorities of your life, then get those priorities to find their way into your daily tasks and the daily prioritizing process.
The key to successful life management is to pick your priorities. We all juggle a number of balls in the air at all times. We might call them work, family, health, friends, spirit, or education. And we try to get through life without dropping any of the balls. But, many of us never take the time to truly identify what the important balls are for us, and to decide how much we value each. Until we do this, we can never truly prioritize anything else. Here’s how you do it . . .
1. Write out a brief statement that describes each of the balls that you try to keep in the air. We’ll call them life-priorities. What is it? Why is it important to you? What would you like to accomplish in each area? Be sure to take the time to write this out!! Thinking it through in your mind might be easier, but it loses effectiveness if you do not write it down. Include a brief description of each life-priority, an explanation of why each is important to you, and a list of major objectives that you would like to accomplish for each.
2. Once you have written something about each life-priority, prioritize them. Choose which life-priority is the most important to you, second, third, etc. This is a critical step because, what happens when work and family events collide? If you know where each life-priority stands in relative importance to the others, it will help you to make appropriate decisions in the moment of choice. This doesn’t mean that if you prioritize family over work, for example, you will always prioritize family events over work events. This depends on the relative importance of each task in that category. But, it does give you direction when making these important decisions.
3. Make sure each daily “to do” list includes not just the mundane, urgent tasks that constantly fill our lists. Be sure to add tasks that will help you accomplish a major objective for each life-priority. Make a point of adding at least one important task for each life-priority each week.
4. When planning your daily tasks, use your life-priorities as a compass that gives you direction. Determine which task is most important at any given moment, by measuring them against the priorities that you have written. Then do it!
5. Review your life-priority compass each week to be sure you are on track. Remember, what gets your attention, gets you. If you take the time to review and focus on your highest priorities each week, they will naturally point your life in that direction.
6. Dump the guilt. If you have decided to do something based on your life-priority compass, you have earned the right to stuff the guilt. Many people go through life feeling guilty. When they are at home, they feel guilty about not spending more time at the office. When they are at the office, the feel guilty that they are not at home with their family. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Using a life-priority compass takes away the guilt and leaves you free to use your emotions in more constructive ways.
I challenge you to develop your own life-priority compass that will become a scale by which you can measure everything you do. It will help you achieve more while giving you more peace of mind.