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If you’re being pulled in too many different directions, it can be difficult to know what to tackle first so you can focus on your priorities and make room for things that help you do your best work, improve your productivity in your job, create more balance in your life or move your business forward.
If you’re like many executives and business owners, you may have too many priorities. Taking on too much and not knowing where to begin as tasks and responsibilities pile up, can leave you feeling burned out, overwhelmed and unsure of the right steps to take to achieve your goals.
To sort through your priorities so you can get the right work done, start by creating a roadmap for yourself by following 6 simple steps:
1. Identify your goals. List all your short-term and long-term goals. What’s most important for you to accomplish today, this week, within the next 3-6 months and the next year? List at least 3 goals in each category.
2. Plan for the week ahead. Take your list and your calendar for the week ahead and block out time for all the goals, tasks and activities that you plan to accomplish for the week and the time you think it will take to complete each one. It will take you a few minutes to do this but it’s an important planning step.
Once you start to map out your plan for the week, you’ll begin to see that you probably don’t have enough hours in the week to accomplish everything on your list. What do you do?
3. Choose how you will spend your time. Notice all the time you’ve blocked out for activities that aren’t related to your goals and try this time management activity: Go back and identify the tasks that are directly related to the goals you set. You’re going to have to start prioritizing what’s most important and how you really want to spend your time during the week. That means you’ll to have to make some hard choices with your time and focus on what’s most important to accomplish. If you need help categorizing your priorities, ask yourself these questions: What’s urgent and important, not urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent and not important?
The activities that are not related to your goals, are not urgent or are not particularly important are the ones you can either eliminate or put off to some point in the future.
Put the activities not related to your goals on a separate list. Some of these might be urgent but not important. You can still do these tasks during your lunch break, non-working hours, the weekend or at some point in the future, or you may want to enlist someone else or hire someone to do the tasks you don’t enjoy doing, don’t have time for, that you’re not as skilled at, or that may take you longer to accomplish than you anticipated.
Take your remaining goals that are urgent and important and prioritize them from most to least urgent. These are the ones you need to complete this week. Then create an action plan for how you’re going to accomplish those goals over the coming days. Create action steps for each of your goals with times assigned to each step. Add these action steps into your calendar. This is your weekly action plan.
Commit to spending your time working on these priorities.
4. Review how you spent your time. At the end of the week, review your calendar and compare it to how you actually spent your time. Were you realistic with the number of activities you took on and your time estimates? Did you accomplish some short-term goals and begin to take steps to achieve your long-term goals? Did you get distracted or did you procrastinate? Did you spend too much time on social media, doing email or talking to co-workers? Did you allow others to interrupt you or to control your calendar? Did you spend too much time responding to requests from others? Did you take on work that others could have done just as well? How much time did you waste on activities that were not related to your goals? Some of these are important tasks and they also need to get done, just maybe not today, not by you or not during working hours.
Your workday should be devoted to monetizing your business or improving your productivity in your job to reach the goals you set for yourself or others set for you, to build your skills and help your company grow and move forward.
Remember, how you choose to spend your time is up to you and effective time management is a learned process that you can get good at over time, with practice.
5. Celebrate success. As you accomplish your goals each day, no matter how small or large, notice the progress you’re making on your priorities. Celebrate your newfound productivity and your success.
6. Repeat the Process. Once you organize your time this way, repeat this process so that it becomes a new “Time Management System” or habit. Focusing on your goals in this way with a calendar to keep you focused and accountable makes it easier to say “No” to the things that are not related to your goals. You can now see that you have a choice to stick to your goals or make time for things that are not as urgent and important–activities that can throw your life off balance and into overwhelm.
This time management system to organize your goals & priorities will help you learn how to establish structure & boundaries with your time, organize your workweek, create a clear plan of action to break free from the issues that can keep you stuck & overwhelmed.
Now that you’ve identified your goals, you’ve prioritized them and you’ve given yourself the space to accomplish what’s most important, go ahead and put them into action this week!
Let me know how it works for you.
Kathryn McKinnon is a Harvard Business School executive coach, time management expert, best selling author, speaker and CEO of McKinnon & Company dedicated to helping executives and business owners change the way they spend their time so they can live more productive, balanced lives. More time management activities, tips and strategies to save time are found in Triple Your Time Today! on Amazon and on her time management radio show: http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/time-management-radio/. If you’re looking for an executive coach to show you how to reduce the chaos and stress, boost your energy and improve your productivity, Kathryn can help you solve those issues. Contact her today at support@Kathryn-McKinnon.com Time Management Activity to set priorities.