How to Manage Use of Our Time Effectively and Prioritize the Important Over the Urgent

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Image source: mitchmelnick.com

BY: KEISHA JOHNSON

It seems nearly impossible these days to manage the use of our time effectively so that the things that matter most get done.

Not only do the days and months seem to coalesce, exacerbating our efforts to keep pace with everything swiftly passing by, but distractions abound.

Bots map our interests and routines, weaving layers of intelligent data about us that lure us on paths against our better judgment like impulse shopping and binging online.

The gamut of instant messages, email notifications, Facebook alerts, tweets etc., on all our devices, from all our social media accounts, have created a very noisy world screaming for our attention.

While subliminal marketing tactics stoke the fear of loss in us that sometimes trump logical or responsible behavior.

To keep the focus on the things that matter in the end, like achieving our goals, enjoying good relationships and making a difference in our sphere of influence –  is becoming an art form to be mastered.

Managing the Madness

How do we manage the madness and prioritize what’s truly important?

Lorene Phillips, a senior insurance executive for over two decades, mother of three boys, wife, mentor, coach and author offers some advice in her book 29 Keys to Unlock Your Faith at Work and Win.  

“Learning to manage your time is a skill that can help you to meet your goals and to be responsible and dependable. These are skills that will serve you well in all stages of your career,” shared the vice president and casualty treaty underwriter. A good starting point, she advises, is finding applicable resources.

Agreeing with Stephen Covey’s number three habit in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Phillips says adopting the mindset and skill to “put first things first” has proven “paramount” to her professional success and to balancing her family and social life.

Referencing lessons learned that distinguished her award-winning career, Phillips writes, I had to find a system to determine my priorities and execute on them. On the job, it was whatever helped me to write profitable business. This allowed me to better prioritize and manage expectations and deliverables both internally and externally.”

Utilizing tips from Laura Stack’s Leave the Office Earlier, Phillips shared she was able to identify her weak points and find best-fit solutions.

“Keeping up with emails and making sure that I dealt with priority items were my main concerns especially when it seemed like everything was important and urgent all at the same time,” she admits.

How did she overcome this?

“I was able to determine the best times to check emails for example. This strategy proved effective to “fight the urge to respond to every email that interrupted my workflow. I was able to be responsive within 24-hours and I discovered how to use my diary to keep me well-organized at home and at work.”

One Simple Question

Understanding ‘what is important’ is implicit to the mastery of prioritization. Phillips said she clarified this in her career when she asked herself a simple question, what am I paid to do?

“It was very liberating once I became clear about what my core responsibilities were. If something did not contribute to that directly, it was not my priority. It could be delegated or done at another time and I was ok with that,” she shared in an interview with Living the Dream in Canada.

What could ‘putting first things first’ look like for you?

  1. For a student, it could be to complete your course of study and to do it well so that you not only obtain the certification but distinguish yourself among your peers.

2. As a professional, it may be to fulfill and surpass the terms and expectations of your contract so that you not only retain your job but show yourself qualified for promotion.

3. Within the family, your top priority may be spending quality time together.

What other strategies have proven effective for you in prioritizing the important from the urgent? We’d love to hear from you.

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