Albert Einstein cleverly explained that “the only reason for time is so that things don’t happen all at once.” You may be thinking, “Clearly he didn’t know how things go at my office.”
Actually, Einstein’s genius for creating universal theories does work in that comment as well. While you may think that by multitasking you can extend your time, what often happens is that you make careless errors and forget important tasks. The brain can only manage so much, no matter how many minutes pass on the clock. You can use time, plan time, and manage time, but you can’t stretch time.
That’s why you need to deal with the 3 P’s: procrastination, planning, prioritizing.
You might think it odd to begin with procrastination- what can that have to do with time management?
Actually, nothing destroys time management faster than procrastination. The typical procrastinator isn’t lazy, that’s a common misconception. Many highly intelligent and capable people procrastinate because they want to get everything just right.
If you wait until all things are perfectly aligned, then you may wait a long time. File that pile on your desk… sure, you’ll do it when you have time to color code the files. Set up the client email list… yes, you’ll do it when you learn the newest software. That’s the sound of procrastination. When these simple tasks are not done, it’s the foundation for a train wreck of work left incomplete.
Taking time to plan helps overcome procrastination. Instead of the need to do all the work at once, create a plan that tackles those delayed jobs in thirty-minute intervals each day. Then set up a plan to avoid starting the same problems over again. Not every task needs to be done every day. Set up lists of daily, weekly, and monthly work tasks with an assigned day to do the weekly or monthly tasks.
Having a work plan is a sense of security that methods are in place to complete the necessary tasks. With each complete task, the sense of accomplishment pushes procrastination farther away.
Learning to prioritize time use is vital to get the most important tasks done even if everything does not get finished. Unless you have a small “to do” list, don’t expect all the items to be crossed off each day.
The best-structured work plan can be changed when new situations arise. If you don’t have practice in prioritizing regular work tasks, then you will be unable to make the fast break necessary to change the priority of today’s schedule when something more lucrative or imperative happens.
In simple terms, you prioritize anytime you decide that one task is now more important to do than the other one. Of course, you have to set up some basics for making this choice. What is the priority in your business?
If you are a firefighter, then dropping everything and racing to the emergency is the priority. If you are a real estate agent, you may have to give up a Saturday afternoon out with friends when a good prospect wants to see a house.
Whatever type of work you do, you know which tasks are the genuine priorities and which can be done at another time. Be careful not to make everything a priority because then nothing is the priority and your time use is so crowded that nothing gets done well.
Einstein was right, don’t try to make everything happen at once. You’ll get frustrated, make mistakes, and start to feel that time is your enemy when, as the Pogo cartoon character once told us, “We have met the enemy and it is us!”