Time is a scarce and non renewable resource. Once a moment is gone, it’s gone and there is no way you can recover it. I bring this up because effective time management is one of the keys to outstanding performance. Outstanding performance, as you know, is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.
In doing a Google search on time management, I came across a Time Management Checklist published by Harold Taylor. I suggest that you check it out. In contains 50 pieces of common sense advice on how to better manage your time. All 50 are valuable, but I particularly like number15:
"Be time conscious rather than a perfectionist. Let the amount of time spent on a task be proportionate to the value of the outcome."
This is one piece of advice that I don’t always follow. It’s closely related to Stephen Covey’s ideas on the concepts of important and urgent. If you’re not familiar with these ideas, Dr. Covey suggests (and I’m paraphrasing here) that we can put any task into one of four buckets:
- Not Important, Not Urgent
- Not Important, Urgent
- Important, Not Urgent
- Important, Urgent
You can forget about the not important and not urgent tasks. However, the other three have some big implications for managing your time in order to become an outstanding performer.
Not important and urgent tasks can be a time trap. Finish them quickly. There is not sense on spending a lot of time on them as the value of their outcome is likely to be of little overall value to you becoming an outstanding performer.
Spend the time necessary to do the important and urgent tasks. The other day, I got a renewal notice for my Colorado license plates. This was an important and urgent task. I need to have current plates on my car, and I needed to renew my registration before the end of October. I spent the time necessary to keep myself in compliance with Colorado laws.
You may think that important and urgent tasks should take up you day. In fact, I argue that it’s the important but not urgent tasks that will give you the most payback. We all tend to get trapped by urgency. However, non urgent tasks that are very important to your success, can slip through the cracks if you don’t force yourself to spend time with them every day.
I sometimes get caught up in urgent tasks of varying importance, and neglect important, but not urgent tasks. How about you? Do you fall victim to this too?
One way I deal with this problem is by creating a false sense of urgency for my important but not urgent tasks. Here’s an example. This blog is an important task for me. It helps me communicate with customers and potential customers. I have elevated it from an important but not urgent task to an important and urgent task by promising to post every day Monday through Friday. The importance is still there, but by promising to myself and publicly, to post five days a week, writing and posting this blog has moved from the important but not urgent category to the important and urgent category.
This makes sense from a time management perspective. The 45 minutes I spend writing and posting this blog everyday is more than proportionate to the value I get from the outcome of having a lot of blog posts that show up when someone Googles me.
I can’t trick myself like this with everything I do. However, several times each day, I ask myself, "Is what I’m doing right now, worthy of the time I’m spending on it?" If yes, great. If no, I stop what I’m doing and begin work on a task that will help me move closer to my goals.
The common sense point here is simple. Outstanding performers manage their time well. Time management is more than creating a to do list and checking off the items on it. If you want to use your time in a manner that helps you become a truly outstanding performer, you need to let the amount of time you spend on any given task be proportionate to the value of the successful completion of that task.
That’s my take on how to get the most of your time. What’s yours? Please leave a comment sharing your best time management tips with the rest of us. As always, thanks for reading – and commenting.