Determine Your Long-Term Goals
Success begins with clarity. You take the time to sit down with a piece of paper and think through exactly what it is you want to accomplish in each area of your life. You decide upon your ultimate, long-term goals of career and financial success, family success, or personal health and fitness. Once you are clear about the targets you are aiming at, you then come back to the present and plan every minute and hour of every day so that you accomplish the very most that you possibly can with the time allocated to you.
Begin with a List
The fundamental tool of time management is a list, organized by priority and used as a constant tool for personal management. The fact is that you can’t manage time; you can only manage yourself. That is why time management requires self-discipline, self-control, and self- mastery. Time management requires that you make the best choices and decisions necessary to enhance the quality of your life and work. Then you follow through on your decisions.
You should plan your life with lists of long-term, medium- term, and short term goals and projects. You should plan every month, in advance, with a list of the things you want to accomplish during that month. You should make a list of every step in each multitask job that you want to complete, and then organize that list by priority and sequence.
Use Advance Planning
Begin today to plan every week in advance, preferably the Sunday before the workweek begins. Plan every day in advance, preferably the night before.
When you make a list of everything you have to do the following day, your subconscious mind works on that list all night long. When you wake up in the morning, you will often have ideas and insights to help you accomplish the items on your list. By writing out your plans, you will activate the Law of Attraction. You will begin attracting into your life the people, opportunities, and resources that you need to achieve your goals and complete your tasks the very best way possible.
Consider the Consequences
The most important word in determining the value of a particular task or activity is “consequences”. A task that is valuable and important is a task that has serious consequences for completion or noncompletion. The greater the possible consequences of a task or activity, the more important it is.
A task for which there are few if any consequences is, by definition, not particularly important. Your aim in personal management, therefore, is to spend more time doing more of those tasks that can have the greatest possible consequences on your life and work.
Apply the 80/20 Rule
Once you have prepared a list a tasks for the coming day, review your list and apply an 80/20 Rule before you begin.
This 80/20 Rule says that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of the value of all your activities. If you have a list of ten items to complete, two of those items will be more valuable than the other eight items combined. Two of ten tasks will have greater potential consequences than the other 80 percent.
Sometimes it will even be the 90/10 Rule that applies. Often one task on a list of ten items you have to do during the day will contain more value than everything else put together. This task, unfortunately, is usually the task that you will procrastinate on most readily.
Practice Creative Procrastination
Once you have identified your top 20 percent of tasks, you can then practice “creative procrastination” on the others. Since you cannot do everything, you will have to procrastinate on something. The only question is, which of your tasks are you going to procrastinate on?
The answer is simple. Procrastinate on the 80 percent of tasks that contribute very little to your desired goals and results. Focus on your time and attention on completing those one or two jobs that can make the most difference.
The Pertinent Question
The key question, and perhaps the best question in all of priority management, is this: “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?” All questions and methods of goal setting, personal planning , and time management are aimed at helping you to accurately answers this question, every minute of every day.
When you discipline yourself to ask and answer this question repeatedly, and you are sure that whatever you are doing is the answer to this question, you will start to accomplish two and three times as much as the people around you. You will become more and more productive. You will plow through more work of higher value and accomplish greater results than anyone around you. Discipline yourself to keep working on the most valuable use of your time, whatever it may be at the moment, and you will be much more successful.
In the final analysis, the key to high productivity and performance in this: Dedicate yourself to getting better and better in a few tasks that you do that account for most of your results. Simultaneously, learn to delegate, outsource, and eliminate all those tasks and activities that contribute very little to your results and rewards. As Goethe said, “The Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things matter least.”
- Make a list of everything you would like to be, do, or have in the months and years ahead. Analyze your list and select those items that can have the greatest possible consequences on your life.
- The evening before, make a list of everything you have to do the next day. Let your subconscious mind work on your list while you sleep.
- Organize your list by priority using the 80/20 Rule outlined in this article. Separate the urgent from the nonurgent and the important from the nonimportant before you begin.
- Select the most important task, the one with the greatest possible consequences for completion or noncompletion, and circle it, making it your A-1 job.
- Begin working immediately on your most important task, and then discipline yourself to concentrate single-mindedly on this one task until it is 100 percent complete.