You ever have so much you want to get done but the to-do list ends with the same number of items on it as you started, yet you crossed things off?
Odds are, you have a priority management problem, not a time management problem.
My daughter is this same way and it is something we are trying to instill in her. School started two and a half weeks ago. She is already wanting to do a million different things outside of school, which takes up a large portion of her day.
On day 1, she came home saying she wanted to do volleyball.
On day 3, she came home saying she wanted to run for student council.
On day 6, she came home saying she wanted to run for human relations council.
On day 9, she came home saying she wanted to do drama.
On day 14, she came home saying she wanted to join the ukulele club.
All of this on top of already being involved in a soccer league where she practices twice a week and has games on Saturdays.
All of a sudden I am tired just from typing that all out, and its not even happening! The mental space it takes up, because I have to manage her activities, takes up too much space and is tiring.
After the fifth thing she wanted to do, I sat her down and we had a discussion about the things she really wanted to do vs the things she just wanted to do. The problem is, in her mind, she didn’t just really want to do these things, she HAD to do them. The problem was, she didn’t have a time management issue (yet), but did have a priority management issue.
Same with Business Owners, Department Heads, and Leaders
This is the same problem business owners have. Leaders have. Something shiny comes along and that is the new thing we need to do. Or you think you have to do it all. Or you say yes to the things you know you shouldn’t be doing but can’t say no.
Your prioritizing problem then feels like a time management problem because you aren’t prioritizing at all. When you say yes to everything, you are saying no to the things that matter.
Prioritizing can be difficult when you *feel* like you have to do it all.
Here is an exercise you can do to help you in deciding what you need to do vs what you can delegate or eliminate. It is a first good step and is not an end all. Think of it as a tool in your business toolbox.
We are going to use the Urgent/Important matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix. This is a great tool to use to see what you absolutely must do vs what someone else can accomplish. As I share in my book, “It will help you see where you are spending your time, where you need to shift your focus, and what you need to do to live in the space of being a leader.”
Steps to Prioritize Your Tasks
First, make a list of all of your tasks at work. Yes, all of them. These can be daily tasks, tasks around strategy, managing individuals, meetings, etc.
Second, place all of your tasks in each of these boxes.
1. Do It:
Think of the tasks that only you can do. Those go in the Do It box. Sometimes (ok all the time) this is where the “fires” in the organization arise. You have to take care of those tasks immediately, but they often aren’t thought of as tasks.
2. Schedule It:
These tasks are the ones that are important to the vision and mission of the organization. This is the leadership work, the culture conversations, employee engagement, refining processes or coming up with processes to create standard operating procedures, etc. It is taking time to work on your business or team, instead of in your business or department doing the work. If you don’t have any tasks in this area, that should be a red flag that you aren’t leading or running your business with intentionality.
This is when time management comes into play. You need to make sure you utilize a calendar or time blocking so that your time management is on point, and you accomplish what you need to get done.
3. Delegate It:
This is my favorite one! This is typically the one that is overlooked. Here are some great scenarios for delegating it:
There are things in your business that you dislike doing. These same things are liked by others in your organization. Delegate and empower them to complete it.
If it takes too much of your time and someone else can do it, delegate it.
Delegate it if it is not your strength. Don’t force your way through it.
If you are a business owner and it doesn’t move your business forward, delegate it.
You can contract out for basically everything these days. If you don’t have a staff person, contract the position. This can be for a specific task or a role that is 5 hours a week.
4. Eliminate It:
If the task is pointless and doesn’t move your department or the organization forward. Eliminate the task. This becomes your Do Not Do list.
The bottom line is 20% of what you do will product 80% of your results. Make sure you are focusing on the right tasks in leading your organization.
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Stephanie German is a business strategist, adjunct professor, and speaker. She holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership and loves giving back to her community in a variety of ways. When she’s not coaching clients or writing about leadership, Stephanie is usually headed to the mountains or the beach with her family, drinking savory wine, or working on the latest project with her husband. Stephanie’s greatest desires are to raise up the next generation of leaders while raising her own children to be strong, independent, and brave. She lives in Fresno, California with her husband Blake and her three spunky daughters, Cara, Kinsey, and Peyton. She is the best-selling author of So Your Boss Can’t Lead?