You: “How are things?”
Colleague: “Busy… crazy busy actually… Especially this time of the year.”
Had any conversations like this in the past few weeks? I have. Its a common refrain I've heard from business owners in my professional Business Coaching practice as they manage into and through the Holiday season, year-end and the general fevered pitch of business activities through the fall and winter.
And how many times have you read articles extolling the virtues of this or that system or device or app and this or that calendar process? Or how many times have you tried to find a new time management system that will work for you? Time management seems especially challenging at this time of the year.
But isn’t time management really just priority management? There is no possible way to get everything you can dream up accomplished in the few weeks we have left before the end of the year. So perhaps this is the moment to sit back and really think about what we should have on the top of the priority list. Between business requirements, family time, shopping, cooking, get-togethers with friends and colleagues for holiday lunches, after work socials, seasonal parties and what ever else, there are clearly a lot of demands on our time.
In an earlier post on business goals, I talked about the importance of goal setting and how valuable that can be in helping to manage your priorities. So how do you work that into a weekly and daily routine for priority (or time) management?
Brian Tracy talks about the ABCDE method of setting priorities. It’s a powerful, action oriented approach to setting and managing which activities you invest your time into. A simple way of starting the process is to make a list of all the things you want to accomplish this upcoming week. Make sure to leave a space in front of each task for some notation. Do this on Friday afternoon or over the weekend. Now, review the list carefully, item by item with 2 filters in mind. One is your most important goals. Ask yourself, for each item, “Does completing this task move me closer to one or more of my goals?” The second is an assessment of the importance and impact of the task. Here, you can ask "What is the impact on my business if I complete or don't complete this task?"
Based on those filters, assign a priority letter to each item before moving on to the next using this basic outline as described by Brian:
A - These are the most important items. Not completing them will have serious consequences for yourself or your business. Also, they should generally be closely aligned with your goals.
B - These are important items that would be good to get completed. However, not completing them would have only minor consequences for you or your business.
C - These are “nice-to-do” items that would have no consequences if not completed.
D - These are items that could be delegated or automated. Can the task be completed by setting up an automated process, such as automated bill payments, that would take care of the work without you having to put energy into it.
E - These are items that can be eliminated. Ask yourself for every item on the list, "Do I really need to be doing this or can I stop investing my time into it altogether?” Most of us spend time on activities that we really don’t need to be doing.
Now, survey the list and look at the A items. Those can be further sorted into A-1, A-2, A-3, etc. Again, look to ensure that the A-1 items will make the most impact in moving you toward your goals and mitigate or capitalize on the most significant consequences. Remember that going to the office party or cooking special treats for the holidays may be an A-1 priority for you. That’s really for you to decide based on your goals and values.
Now here’s where the magic comes in. On Monday, choose the highest A-1 priority item and work on that activity diligently until it’s complete. When that’s done, move on to the next highest priority item. You can organize your Monday to maximize the value for each hour of the day by blocking in all your highest priority items. For Tuesday, in the morning before the day gets rolling, review what you accomplished yesterday, add in any new tasks (properly prioritized of course) and work on the highest priority items first. As I talked about in that previous post, the prioritization of your daily and weekly tasks is then driven by the short, mid and long term goals you set for your business. And those goals are all aligned with achieving your business vision.
If building an effective goal framework and prioritization process is something you have been struggling with, perhaps it’s time to think about professional business coaching. Managing your time investment in your business for maximum impact is a key to successful time management for both your business and personal time. Lets talk about establishing a clear prioritization approach for your business.
Sean Brady | Certified Business Coach