• Katie Weston

Prioritization: The Key to Efficient Time Management

‘I don’t have time’. 'I’m too busy’. ‘I’m doing other stuff’. ‘Maybe another time’.

Common phrases we hear on a daily basis in everyday life.

It could be a wife asking her husband if he’s put the garbage out?

Parents asking their children if they have tidied their room?

A friend asking you if you’ve been to the gym that week? Going to the gym!?

Gym memberships traditionally sell well during the early part of the year when people set resolutions and aim to get fit. They generally decline during the spring when people want to spend more time getting outside (who wouldn’t want to run in the sunshine rather than on a treadmill?).

But the most common reason for quitting on a gym membership?

I don’t have time to go anymore’.

But why do some of the busiest people in the world manage to keep fit, run marathons, raise thousands of dollars for charity, and still run a business?

The ‘Ironman’ Triathlon is one of the toughest endurance races in the world. Only 800,000 people from our global population have ever finished the 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike course, and 26.2 mile marathon run in the time limit of 17 hours.

And yet the organization has a ‘C level’ classification where CEOs and senior executives are entered into a separate category on a league table in order to compete on a global basis against each other.

Alpha types trying to outdo each other – imagine that? Training and preparing for an Ironman takes an immense amount of time. Unless an athlete has maintained a minimum level of fitness during the off-season, it is at least a six-month buildup to race day.

A typical training week will consist of at least three hours in the pool, six hours on the bike and three hours of running. This increases as the notorious ‘peak week’ (pushing the body to endurance limits around three weeks prior to race day) approaches and requires exemplary levels of commitment and dedication.

So, how do these global CEOs manage to fit such a challenging training regime into what is likely a very hectic work schedule running their billion-dollar corporations?

The answer is simple: they prioritize.

One common attribute of successful people is the fact they are ‘proactive’, rather than ‘reactive’. They look well ahead and understand WHAT needs to be done and WHEN.

In Mark Sanborn’s presentation “Managing Time for Maximum Results”, he talks about everyone having the same amount of time – but it’s what you do with it that counts.

One of the key points he makes is to ‘block off time to get things done’. Cut out distractions to ensure you have a goal in mind and it MUST be completed by a certain point or you will not move on to the next task.

For the CEO Ironman, blocking off training time is an imperative component of their schedule.

They will know they have to put in a 3-hour shift on the bike on Tuesday, so they will work their schedule around that. It could mean getting up early, or taking a long lunch and working late, or starting work early and leaving the office early to get on the bike.

Another key attribute of successful people is the ability to understand the length of time tasks will take, and to what level they need to be executed.

Jim Henig describes this as the ‘Perfectionist Principle’. Set a standard, get to it and move on. Although it could be argued that successful people clearly exude high standards, they will also recognise the need not to dwell on accomplishing a level above and beyond the acceptable.

They effectively ‘prioritize’ the standard to which they will work.

I don’t have time’ is nothing more than an excuse.

Everybody has time to do anything they want to do. The questions is: How badly do they want to do it?

Because, if they DID want to do something, then they would make it a prioritization and quite simply ……. they would do it.

If a member of the workforce claims they do not have time to attend the weekly team meeting, it’s not because they don’t have time, it’s because they don’t feel they get any value from those meetings.

If a manager says he doesn’t have time to complete performance evaluations, it’s not because he doesn’t have time, it’s because he doesn’t see the value in either the process, or in the benefits it would bring to his workforce.

And if a CEO doesn’t think his team have time to attend a Leadership Development Program, it’s not because they don’t have time …….. it’s because that CEO doesn’t see the value in developing their number one asset – their people.

So, if you want to effectively manage your time through effective prioritization, then consider these points, commit to them, and get things done.

Prioritization Top Tips:

- Understand WHAT needs to be done and by WHEN.

- Recognize and record precisely how long tasks take in order to plan them into your schedule.

- Control distractions by sending a signal that you are fully focused on your tasks.

- Block off time in order to fully focus on your priorities.

- Give yourself a reward when your prioritized tasks are complete.

Do not make excuses for not getting tasks completed. Everyone has the same amount of time available in their lives – it’s what you do with it that counts.