Success people are focused. They don’t let distractions get the better of them. Effective time management is one of the keys to personal organization. If you’re like most people, you always have more to do than 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.
As Stephen Covey says, 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, like most people today, search for and find a lot of the information I need on line. 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 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 to help you become a professional success. These are things like expense reports that must be done within so many days of a trip, weekly staff meetings that you either lead or attend – the types of things that you have to do, but often don’t contribute to your larger goals. The trick is to get these activities done in a timely manner, but not to spend a lot of your precious time doing them.
Important and urgent activities are just what they seem. I write this blog five days a week. My blog is a very important marketing tool. It increases my awareness in a very crowded market. It positions me as a career advice expert. And it reinforces my Common Sense Guy brand. Writing and posting my blog is an important and urgent activity. I do it first thing every day. 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 payoff when it comes to creating your professional success. 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 a career advice expert and reinforce my Common Sense Guy brand. I don’t need to work on a new book every day. Writing a book 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 success 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.