Setting Priorities for Managing Your Time

One of the hardest parts of time management is setting priorities. Sometimes it can feel like every last thing you need to do in an emergency. But the truth is, there are ways to organize your time and manage the tasks that you need to do so that you get them finished right when they need to be done without feeling overwhelmed or rushed.

The great Stephen Covey made the following time management grid to save us from ourselves, (Covey is often credited with inventing the grid but this is wrong as the concept was initially concieved by General Eisehower).  It looks like this:

Setting Priorities Stephen Coveys Time MGT Grid

The way you use the grid is to designate each item on your to-do list to a coloured square. Instead of quadrants like Mr. Covey’ has assigned, they are different colours here.

  • Purple: Needs to be done immediately
  • Green: Needs to be done but can take longer and needs more strategic planning
  • Pink: Distractions, but needed by others
  • Light green: Not at all important and often used in order to procrastinate

Use the grid to help create your daily to-do list by prioritizing the importance and urgency of each item you have to pick from. It can be as simple as doing the purple things first, then the green, next pink, and finally the light green items. But, if you do it this way you might miss out on something important you can learn from the time management grid.

Eliminate Urgency from Your Life

By focusing on green you can eventually lessen the purple items on your list. By learning to say no to others you can virtually eliminate the pink things, too. Finally, by getting your schedule under control the light green will eliminate itself because you won’t feel the need to procrastinate anymore.

Learn to Say No

As children we are taught to not say no. Unfortunately, this transfers over to adulthood in a bad way, especially for females. If you determine something is in the pink or light green area, you can use that to determine whether or not you should say no. If it’s something that your client wants that takes five minutes, but it’s not that important, you can do it. If it’s something you just like to do, you can always do it after you’ve done three purple or green tasks.

Assess Your Time Expenditures Now

Now that you have Dr. Covey’s time management chart, you can go back and re-evaluate the things you are currently doing each day to find out what color they are. Knowing their color will help you label each thing that you do throughout the days, weeks and months ahead so that you can prioritize them.

Finally, when you are assessing any task, make sure you label it, then ask yourself if it fits in with your core values and goals. If it does, it’s going to be in either the purple square or the green square. If it doesn’t, it’s probably in one of the other squares. As you learn to use this system it will start becoming more automatic so that you can say yes or no faster and put your time management on auto drive.

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Till Next Time

Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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