The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities
~ Steven Covey
The above quote is great advice from one of the most influential business writers of our time, but it is also one of the most difficult pieces of advice to actually put to practice. It is so easy to get caught up in completing the busywork of day to day life that oftentimes we lose focus on the “big picture”. Our schedules get packed with meetings and phone calls and the things that end up in front of you at the next moment, whether it is the emails that continuously flow in or the mail that piles up on the desk. I know that I am VERY guilty of doing these things. This is not to say that those things are not important, but the tasks that continuously get pushed to the bottom of the list are oftentimes of equal and many times greater importance. It is easy to fall into the habit of always taking care of the “easy” tasks instead of taking time to focus on the items that take a bit more effort and concentration – things like professional development, networking, client relationships, etc.
Here is a great list to start putting Covey’s advice into practice that I found on Scott Allen’s “Mitchell’s Entrepreneurs Blog”:
Here are simple steps to help you organize this:
- List all of the important activities for your business that are ordinarily unscheduled – marketing, product development, networking, client relationships.
- Rate the importance of each on a scale from 1 to 10. They’re all going to seem important, but consider which you would do for an hour if you only had an hour to work on one or the other.
- With those ratings in mind, figure out how much minimum time you want to allocate each week to each activity. Don’t schedule all your working hours – you need some slack to be flexible for all the things that come up on short notice.
- Put the highest priority things early in the day/week. It’s inevitable that sometimes you won’t get to everything, so you want to make sure that the most important things are the ones actually getting done.
- As demands on your time arise, you can move things to another time slot, but you will now have to assess whether whatever you’re considering scheduling is really more important than that other work. If it’s not, just say “no”.
I think you will find as you work this advice into your work day, you will be able to better manage your stress level and accomplish your tasks faster. So start today by taking the #1 item from your list and put it on your schedule. I just did…