Most of us have sat in the garden on a sunny day and watched bees flit from one flower to the next. The pattern, which may appear to be random, is actually very focused. Bees determine which flower to visit based on the colour of the petals, fragrance of the nectar, and by sensing the electrical field that surrounds the bloom. They use that information to choose where they go next. Bees are very focused and they set priorities.
When we work, many of us flit from one thing to another; but unlike the bees, we are not always focused on priorities and working to accomplish our goals. Setting priorities and then focusing is the key to productivity.
It is critical that you determine on what you should be spending your time. A long list of all the tasks we have to accomplish does not help with focus.
Step 1: Keeping your overall roles and responsibilities in mind pick 3 or 4 goals that you and your organization agree are critical for success.
Step 2: Write these goals down. Make sure they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic with a Target Date. These are your key priorities.
Step 3: Determine what percentage of your time you should be focusing on each of these goals/key priorities every week. Notice the language: “should be” and not “are.”
Step 4: At the end of each week track your success. How much time did you spend on the key goals versus what you know you should be spending? If you didn’t spend the time on priorities then potentially you were spending time on less significant items.
Step 5: If the optimal percentage of time was not achieved, determine what changes you could make. It will help if you ask the following questions:
Instead of focusing on my priorities did I:
- Work on things that should have been delegated to others?
- Schedule time when I could work on my priorities and keep that commitment?
- Do things that should not be done at all?
- Read my emails every time they came in or answer the phone when it rang rather than scheduling specific times to read and respond?
- Make choices that distracted me from my goals?
- Allow people to ask for help, even if they did not come prepared? Did I insist that they be succinct with the issues and possible solutions?
- Set clear expectations about meeting lengths and adhere to those parameters?
There are 24 hours in a day and we can’t buy, borrow, steal or manufacture an extra minute! What we can do is manage ourselves effectively in the time we have and focus on our priorities. Self-management is the key to using our time effectively and achieving the desired results.