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It’s taken me longer than expected to chew over the seemingly simple time management technique of working with priorities. Carla and I began trying this out at the start of January and while she found a way to make it work for her by the start of February I was still struggling.

I just couldn’t decide what to focus on. A reader comment on the original post suggested putting tasks into a grid to see which you should do first. Top left was urgent and important, top right was important not urgent, bottom left was urgent not important and bottom right was neither urgent or important. You work on top row first from left to right and then bottom row likewise.

I discovered that I really over think what is actually urgent and important. In the end I had to just remind myself that if I thought it was then it was. The Priority Police were not going to be checking up on me.

I then found out that I always make job lists with the expectation of doing them over several days, and then I stagger the jobs based on a combination of urgency, importance, how long it will take to do, where I would prefer to be to carry out the task and how much I want to do (or want to put it off).

The last one was a real problem. If I didn’t want to do a job (anything from a difficult phone call to cleaning the oven to sorting out a washing load) then I’d do plenty of other jobs first and I’d even justify putting it off by making it a priority for a later date!

So my learning has been:

  • Don’t over think it.
  • Make a job list for today. If you have too many tasks for one day then put the urgent and important ones on today’s list.
  • Remind myself how good it feels when I actually do something I’ve been putting off.

I love Carla’s idea of having key priorities for different parts of the day and I’m going to see if there is a way that I can work this into my life. Maybe I’ll have different priorities for half hour periods between getting home from work and going to bed. Then I can stop being late for burlesque class, always find time for bass practice and still find time to eat dinner and wash up.

This first exercise has been really useful in getting an idea of how I do approach managing my time, and that I have habits that just aren’t that effective. So plenty of room for improvement! Next month we’ll be looking at the concept of ‘doing it earlier in the day’. More on that next week.