Are you short of time to read this article?
It will save you time later.
Set your Priorities Straight
Make no mistake: a day has the same 24 hours for everyone, so don’t think you are busier than anyone else and stop complaining how you never have enough time in your calendar.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the lack of time, it’s about a lack of established priorities.
Priorities should set the tone: depending on the priority of your request or project, I may or may not be busy.
Having worked for a couple of years in the consulting space now, that was one of the first key lessons I learned: you need to set your priorities straight.
The first priority should always be your clients. It’s your clients who provide your paycheque, so the least you can do for them is give them all the love and attention they deserve.
I’m always amazed when I’m at a restaurant, for instance, the waiter leaves me waiting to place my order to go clean up a table when no one else is waiting.
First deal with your client, then deal with the rest.
After your client, the next priority should be your boss (and by boss, I mean your line Manager). Your Manager is the person who will decide on your promotion and pay raise. Enough said.
Only, after the needs of your clients and manager are satisfied, you should reply to any emails from your colleagues.
Nothing against helping out your colleagues (I’m always in favour of collaboration!), as long as that doesn’t mean letting your clients and boss waiting in line.
Work Smarter, not Harder
Let’s be honest here: some people like to pretend they are busy just to impress others and show how indispensable they are to the business.
They are always running from one meeting room to the other, like to constantly advertise on how busy they are, and invariably are the last ones to leave the office, even if they don’t actually need to. Sound too familiar?
Or maybe they are just workaholics. At some point in time, we started to equalise workaholics with hard workers, almost forgetting that being a workaholic is also a sort of addiction, and that addictions are, well, bad stuff.
As a workaholic in recovery, please take my word: a proper work-life balance is essential and lends to happy people who others like to work with.
The trick is to work smarter, not harder: organise your day the moment you sit at your desk, define what are the things that you really need to focus that day, and make a wise and productive use of time spent at meetings. Start with the simple things.
Tackle your to-do list like a President
There’s a terrific little tool that could help you manage your time better: the important vs urgent matrix, aka as the Eisenhower Box, coined after the USA’s President, who care deeply about his time.
Using this simple tool, which separates tasks in four quadrants, you can start identifying what needs to be done now, what can be postponed, what can be delegated, and what can be wiped out from your diary.
Everyone will say that their tasks are the most important and the most urgent, that’s simply how things work. Nevertheless, if you want to get organised, check your agenda for the day and double-check: are they really urgent or can they wait until tomorrow? Are they actually important?
As President Eisenhower once said “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”.
Not everything is as important and urgent as reading this article, of course, so keep this tool in mind next time someone assigns you a new task.