Time Management Skill Number 1: Prioritization
Time management skills are usually talked about in the context of best business practices. However, they apply to all aspects of life. Almost all aspects of ordinary life will benefit from time management strategies that, when used correctly, can really help prevent a lot of stressful situations. It is important to not only look at these strategies as simple time management tips but as tools that need to be adapted and implemented. It takes time to figure out what works because everyone is different. However, there are four fundamental tools: prioritization, scheduling, estimation and delegation that everyone should have in their toolbox. Let’s cover the time management skill, prioritization in this blog.
Deciding which activities take precedence is one of the most important time management skills. It is also the first step in tackling your to-do list. However, it is also the first time management strategy that goes out the window when we are overwhelmed. In those situations when we have so much to tackle, we tend to think that everything has to be done NOW! If it doesn’t, it is the end of the world. Here is a time management tip: Stay calm and see the structure. Every item on your to-do list should have some structure to it. What do we mean by structure? Every item should have a timeline, steps, and associated dread. Understanding structure is the most important time management tool to prioritization. Examples, examples, examples! Let’s run through an example of this time management skill.
When it comes to understanding the time management skill prioritization, we should understand the structure of each item. To make sure we stay as relatable as we can, let’s look at these three items: preparing for a presentation, doing laundry, and performing other work. We know, super generic right! However, let’s use these to understand a really important time management strategy. In this example, let’s say that it is Saturday morning. You just had an awesome gathering and slept in way too much. Your presentation is due on Monday, but you have a smelly load of laundry in the corner. On top of that, you’re looking at your planner and you see a huge workload this upcoming week. Time management tip: Don’t freak out! So let’s calm down and take a look at this together. Your presentation is due on Monday. You have to choose a topic, outline it, write it, and design it. This should be your number one priority right? Yet, you really don’t want to do it. So you look at laundry and say that is pretty easy, let’s do that! You don’t even want to confront what “other work” you have to prepare for next week. You might think to yourself, man I hate that I read EFC’s time management skills blog because now I have to really think about how to prioritize.
Taking a step back and looking at our time management skill prioritization, you have instinctively put laundry as number 1 because it causes us the least amount of dread. That is actually okay. Here is another time management tip: use easier tasks to ease your way into the harder ones. In this case, we can start laundry, which gets us going, then jump into the first few steps of the presentation. Then when it is time for the drier, we can take a break. Taking productive breaks is one of the most important time management tools you can have. As you pop in your laundry, take some “me” time and listen to your favorite song. Jam out for a bit! When you feel refreshed, hop back onto that presentation. Right now, you might be thinking, “How do I not get distracted? How do I not listen to the next song?” Here is a time management strategy when it comes to prioritization. Don’t listen to the next song! Yes, it will take adapting for you to not listen to that next song, but your executive functions coach will help you figure it out. It might be as simple as some creative use of timers or rewards. Whatever it is, it will be something you add to your time management skills tool kit.
So by now you might be wondering what time management skill is going to cover the “other work.” The simple truth is that we will always have three categories when it comes to prioritization. Items that must be done now, items that are so easy that we can make it fun, and finally, items that can wait. Remember time management tip number one: calm down and see the structure? We are all human. We only have a limited capacity to do so much each day. Sure when we break things down, there might be more than one thing that has to be done. However, they will always fall into these categories. The most important time management strategy when it comes to prioritization is recognizing where each item falls. And remember, you are only one person. You can only really do one thing at a time. Oh, one more time management skills tip, if you are really dreading something, you should get on it.
Recap of Time Management Skill: Prioritization
Time management skills take time to develop, especially prioritization. Choosing what should happen first can leave many anxious and stuck. Get an executive functions coach to help you work through your challenges and master your time management skills!