The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote:
“We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
And yet here I am suggesting that you stop worrying about how you manage your time.
Over the years as a coach, I have noticed that when my clients bring up the topic of time management, they’re often not actually talking about how they manage their time.
They are talking about how they manage their priorities.
How do I help my clients establish their priorities?
We usually start by taking a pad of sticky notes and noting down one priority on each note. We stick them on the wall so it’s all out there for us to see. Using the principles of the Eisenhower matrix, we allocate them to ‘do first’, ‘schedule’, ‘delegate’ or ‘don’t do’.
Using the time/preference/value exercise in tandem with this can help to check that the tasks are in the correct boxes. This involves an element of time-tracking, after which we can see if actual time spent lines up with priorities established. As Stephen Covey suggested, we schedule the priorities rather than prioritizing what’s on the schedule.
We also ask some questions:
- What matters now? (priorities need to be periodically evaluated – things change)
- What can I do today and for the rest of this week which is in line with my priorities?
- Do my priorities have an impact on others? (eg team, manager, family) If so, how can I manage that impact?
- What’s on my list that doesn’t reflect my priorities? Does it need to be done at all? Can it be delegated?
- Whose support do I need as I work on these priorities? What support can I offer?
We live in a busy world and whilst priority management may not mean that we are suddenly hugely less busy, it helps us to achieve more of what’s important to us (and to our colleagues, our organisation, our family and friends): as Mary O’Connor wrote, ‘it’s not so much how busy you are but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.’
Today’s pebble for you to ponder: will you work on managing your priorities rather than managing your time?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
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