How to effectively manage your highest priorities - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

How to effectively manage your highest priorities


It is how you use your time that determines the degree of meaning or fulfilment you have and the money you make. Your time management system can be judged by the service it provides, the fulfilment it brings and the economic rewards it produces.
But, there is no such thing as true time management. You have the same exact amount of time as anyone else. Getting more done is not about managing your time; it is about how you chose to focus your attention and intention during the time you have. When you focus on scheduling your day to do certain higher priority actions they are more likely to get done.
 
If you fill your day with high priority actions that inspire you your day won’t fill up with low priority distractions that don’t.
 
Since you can have more than one kind of high priority action, it is wise to define them accordingly by further prioritising your high priorities. High priority items or actions can fall under one or more of the following categories:
         
Those needing to be strategically planned (working on the business);
Those needing to be done in relation to yourself;
Those needing to be done in relation to your employees;
Those needing to be done in relation to your clients, customers, patients;
Those needing to be done that are creative (new divisions, services, products, markets…);
Those needing to be delegated outside your company (outsourced); and
Those needing to be delegated inside your company (in-sourced).
 
In order to fill your day with your highest priorities it is essential to master the art of saying no to anything less important.
 
When you are unclear about what your true highest priority or business mission is, distractions can take you ‘off track’ and consume your time, attention, energy, focus, power of concentration and productive capacity. All of this can become a distraction to you and prevent you from achieving your goals.
                                   
Knowing what your highest priority business mission and primary objectives are prevents you from being as easily distracted by every so-called ‘opportunity’ that comes along. It allows you to be more discerning about the activities you choose to take on board and those you discard. Clarity of mission gives you the ability to ignore distractions, and that can be incredibly inspiring and empowering.
 
It is wise to say NO! to your low priority distractions and say YES! to your highest priority actions. You cannot please everyone so don’t waste your time trying. Continually saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no will cost you greater opportunities and lead you to bite off more than you can chew. Your time is finite. If you don’t make your life about what you would love to say yes to, it will keep becoming filled with what you probably intended to say no to.
 
Block out all less important distractions. Give them up. Embrace your trade-off. If your answer to whether to do something is not a clearly a definite yes, then it is wise to make it a no.
 
Try eliminating, or scaling back some of your activities to determine if reducing or eliminating them makes any real difference in your results. This also helps you determine which actions are truly the most productive priorities. Deliberately eliminate or at least reduce your trivial, unimportant, unnecessary and irrelevant actions. Your intentional limits can help you become more limitless.
 
Sticking to your own higher priorities each day raises your self-worth, while other’s distractions can lower it. Take command of your time before others do and tell them the truth, or they may possibly keep demanding from you. Your integrity and at times tactful bluntness will allow you to get your most important job done. Your true friends or colleagues will respect your time and your priorities.
 
Since your work will expand or contract to fill the time allotted (Parkinson’s law), if you don’t fill your space and time with high priorities they can become filled with low priorities. And, if you don’t consume your energy and material resources with high priorities uses they can become consumed by low priority ones. If you don’t intensify your day with inspired actions things can slow down. Your time x your intensity will determine your results.
 
Many distractions that are being initiated by others are often opportunistic in nature. Many are simply others trying to sell you something – an idea, a viewpoint, an opinion, a friendship – in exchange for your valuable life and time. Simply being aware of what is being sold allows you to be more deliberate in deciding whether you want to buy or spend time on it.
 
Gracefully, respectfully and reasonably saying no, may temporarily disappoint the opportunist, but eventually it will lead them to respecting and appreciating you even more. It shows that you are a professional more than just an amateur and that you value yourself and your time more than their distractions. It is wiser to have a long-term gain in respect than a short-term popularity. You cannot be popular with everyone all the time anyway.

Dr John Demartini is a human behaviourist.

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