Value Your Time and Choose Your Priorities Well
You might have noticed I did not publish any article in the month of November.
Since the start of my Grow2lead.me blog this July till November I was publishing an article every 14 days not even knowing how many readers were waiting to read my next blog post. Still, I followed through on a commitment to post an article twice a month as this was the decision I made at the beginning of the project.
November 4, I visited a TEDx Prague conference where successful businessman and inspiring philanthropist Jan Školník talked about his mission of becoming a Socially Responsible Entrepreneur. In his speech, which I enjoyed the most out of the whole conference, he mentioned he needs to be cautious about which objectives he sets for himself. He is highly goal-oriented to the point where he will strive to reach a goal even if the effort has a detrimental effect on his life.
At that time, publishing a post every two weeks was starting to feel non-essential as other important tasks were competing for my attention. There were clients I needed to take care of immediately, the needs of my family, and myself and my health to care for. I was afraid I was falling into a similar trap to Mr. Školník.
Urgent versus Important
You might have heard about the Eisenhower’s Decision Principle. The principle has been popularized in the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In this book, Covey introduced a priority matrix, a version of which you will find below:
Distributing all tasks on your to-do list based on their importance and urgency enables you to decide how to organize your time and delegate more effectively.
In my mind, writing a blog post belonged to quadrant 1, while creating a photo book from my daughter’s second year was in quadrant 2. Then, at the beginning of November I realized I needed to complete the photo book immediately to have it ready for a Christmas gift that would have special value to my ill grandmother.
The trouble with quadrant 2 is that even though these tasks are important, it’s easy to procrastinate and ignore them until they become urgent and shift into quadrant 1. At that point, other tasks in quadrant 2 must be reprioritized, and some of them are forced into quadrant 3 or 2, as in my case.
Enlightened leaders are disciplined and make it a routine to invest most of their time into quadrant 2. They also do not get stuck doing the tasks in quadrant 3 that they can delegate or those in quadrant 4 that they can avoid or ignore.
So how does a person like me who knows what to do, still struggle with making time for what is important? I believe it all comes down to discipline and value proposition.
I ask myself: What value does the frequency of my blog posts have? Initially, I set it for every 14 days because it worked for my routine. But I write my blog for my readers. The primary reason I started the Grow2lead project was and still is to help managers succeed and build successful teams.
Only after three weeks without posting did one of my readers contact me asking if everything was alright. I told him that everything was OK, I had just been prioritizing other tasks. I felt happy there was somebody waiting for my next article, and it reminded me of the value of this blog. Thanks to this reader, I realized how much I miss feedback from you.
It is crucial to understand why a task is important as well as what value you create by investing time into that task and finalizing it.
I once met a manager who complained he did not have time for leadership as he spends most of his working time on individual contributor’s tasks he is unable to delegate. He was aware of the importance of spending his time on people instead of spending it on tasks for building a great and successful team. But still, he was wasting his energy in quadrants 2 and 3, fire-fighting and trouble-shooting, leaving no energy for quadrant 1.
Only when he found great value in having a team that needed him less did he start making people on his team his top priority.
Only when I was asked about my next article did it hit me that some of you might really be waiting for my next article, and I started to write.
As prioritizing well is something we all struggle with sometimes, here are a few tips for how to succeed in prioritizing your tasks as a manager:
As a manager, your number one priority should be focusing on others and not on tasks.
Prioritize not only tasks but also your goals to be able to keep promises given to others and yourself.
Avoid mistaking urgency for importance. Concentrate on building your schedule to spend most of your time in quadrant 2.
Manage your energy level. It’s hard to get anything done if you are tired. Take care of yourself.
Know when it is time to say no to others as well as to yourself. There might be a lot of things to achieve, but there are never 10 priorities!
Be brave enough to acknowledge you made a wrong decision and change your mind! There is always time to reprioritize.
Help your team members to differentiate what is important and what is urgent as well as what they should let go and ignore.
We cannot manage time itself, but we can manage our priorities,
make good decisions, and lead others to do the same!
My daughter Viki during her second Christmas in 2016
I would like to thank all of you who have read till this point. Christmas and year end are approaching, and I felt it to be a good opportunity to contemplate prioritization from a more personal perspective. Many of us know what we should do, but then we do not do it, especially at times like this when we try to catch up and have everything perfect.
Please, take a moment and think not only about the importance and urgency of those things you want to accomplish till the year end, think about the value your (Christmas) time has and the value you can create with the time given for yourself and others.
If you belong to my regular readers, please, do share your feedback with me in comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org on the content of my blog posts as well as their frequency to help me understand what value I create for you and what your expectations and preferences are.