Prioritize Your Priorities By Perrii Muthuraman

THE bad news is time flies; the good news is you are the pilot. You cannot say you do not have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours every day that were available to Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein.

Here is an illustrative story.

A Time Management guru stood in front of the group of hyper-achievers and said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” He pulled out a wide-mouthed jar and set it on a table in front of him.

Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized stones and placed them, one at a time carefully, in the jar. When no more rocks would fit inside the jar, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes”.

“Really?” he said reaching under the table and pulling out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He smiled and asked the group once more, “Is this jar full?”

By this time the class was onto him, “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied and reached under the table once again. This time, he brought out a bucket of sand and sprinkled it in and around the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more, he asked the question “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class chorused. “Good!” he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things in it!”

“No,” replied the speaker, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

In life also, there are urgent and not-so-urgent urgent matters; there are matters that are important and those that are not. If we do not know how to distinguish between them, we cannot achieve better results in less time.

Undergoing a heart surgery, meeting a deadline or repairing a broken machine are all examples of urgent as well as important matters. Do them first.

Interruptions, phone calls, and some meetings may be urgent but not important. Similarly, building a relationship, certain prevention measures or planning may all be important but not urgent. Junk emails, gossiping and other time-wasters may be unimportant as well as not urgent.

Urgent tasks have short-term consequences while important tasks have long-term, goal-related implications.

According to the well-known management expert, Peter Drucker, “Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.”

Doing the right things is effectiveness; doing things, right is efficiency. The first focus should be on effectiveness and then on efficiency.

The Pareto principle or the 80:20 Rule says that 80 percent of results are achieved with only 20 percent effort.

In other words, a small proportion of activity generates non-scalar returns frequently.

Time is money. It is better to learn to manage both. Here are some more tips for better time management.

Always take the time to plan and organize. If don’t spend time planning, you are, in effect, planning to fail.

Have a clear visual picture of your desired outcome or achievement. Practically it means acquiring a mental skill of prioritizing and knowing things to do in sequence.

Set yourself SMART — that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound — goals.

Prioritize your tasks and concentrate on those that bring the greatest rewards. The trick to prioritizing is to isolate and identify that valuable 20 percent of the Pareto principle. Focus is on results, not on being busy

Have the courage to delegate to others or postpone or ignore, when something does not fall within valuable 20 percent of the Pareto principle.

Make a “To Do” list to help you to do all essential tasks in the right order. A list like this will give you control over what needs to be done and avoid overburden of work. It also reduces stress and helps you get organized.

Be flexible. Interruptions and distractions are bound to happen. Have time for them. Time management experts suggest planning only for just 50 percent or less of one’s time to handle interruptions and the unplanned “emergency”.

Never be in a hurry. Give yourself enough time to perform the most necessary tasks.

Never over-commit yourself; do not hesitate to say “no” where required. By learning to say “no”, you will see how your life gets easier.

Conquer procrastination by proper planning. Break your task into smaller bits and tackle only the manageable bit(s) at a time; take breaks between tasks.

Have an activity log and record your activities to satisfy yourself that you did things the way you planned. Don’t rely on your memory. It is a poor guide.

Finally, do not forget to reward yourself for your successes, however small they may be.

Time is Nature’s way of preventing everything from happening at once. By proper management, you can have control over the sequence of events in your life.

 Actionable point:  apply the principles learned here and see your productivity increasing!

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