If you’re like most people, you always have more to do then there is time to do it. I’m pretty good at managing my time, but I do get stressed and overwhelmed occasionally. Time is a very precious and non renewable resource. When a moment is gone, it’s gone forever.
In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents a great time management framework. It goes something like this. When you think of your time, all activities fit into one of four categories:
- Not Important and Not Urgent
- Not Important and Urgent
- Important and Urgent
- Important and Not Urgent
Unfortunately, a lot of people spend a lot of time engaged in not important and not urgent activities. Surfing the web is one of the biggest culprits in this area. I am pretty disciplined, yet I can get caught up following interesting links when I am researching something on the internet. Following links after you’ve found what you’re looking for is a not important and not urgent activity. It is a waste of time and a productivity killer.
Not important and urgent activities can become time traps. These are the kinds of things that you have to do, but in the greater scheme of things, they are not likely to do much for your career success. These are things like expense reports and weekly staff meetings – the types of things you have to do, but don’t contribute to your larger goal. Get these activities done in a timely manner, but don’t spend a lot of your time doing them.
Important and urgent activities are just what they seem. I write a blog. Check it out on my website: www.BudBilanich.com. My blog is a very important marketing tool. It increases my awareness in a very crowded market. It positions me as an expert. And it reinforces my Common Sense Guy brand. Writing and posting my blog is an important and urgent activity. It’s important because of the reasons stated above. It’s urgent because I have committed to my readers to do frequently. I post to my blog first thing in the morning. I’m sure that you have several important and urgent activities on your to do list too. Do them, and do them well.
Important but not urgent activities are where you get the real career success payoff. For example, it’s important to become a lifelong learner. That’s why you need to read, join professional organizations and volunteer for projects in your company. You probably don’t need to read every day and join all of the professional organizations in your field and industry. These activities are just not that urgent. However, you have to make time for them over the long run. If you don’t, you’ll find that you are falling behind, not getting ahead or standing still.
Another example – my books serve much the same purpose as my blog. They increase my awareness in a very crowded market; position me as an expert and reinforce my Common Sense Guy brand. Writing books is an important but not urgent task for me. I manage this by budgeting at least three hours per week to write. As one book goes into the editing and production process, I get busy writing another. In that way, I never find myself without a forthcoming book.
It can be hard to budget time for important but not urgent activities because they are, well not urgent. However, important but not urgent activities left unattended will soon become important and urgent and may even become career crises. My best advice is to focus on your personal set of important but not urgent activities and build some time into your daily or weekly schedule to work on them.