How to Prioritise Tasks and Achieve Successful Time Management

How does your typical Monday morning work schedule look?


  • Check out your overloaded calendar of assignments and meetings.
  • Stare at your outstanding to-dos and fret over how they can be achieved.
  • Concede it will be necessary to work late nights to get them done.
  • Consider the preferred to-dos you would like to hit but haven’t and resign yourself to “when I get time.”


Where you get it wrong is by studying your to-dos and asking, “How the heck do I get all this done?”


What you should be saying is, “What will I aim at doing?”


Scratch the schedule


Rather than trying to prioritise your existing workload, you should be concentrating on what those priorities should be.


It doesn’t make sense to spend all your time in the coming weeks targeting things that do not form part of your company’s overall strategy.


More often than not, the leader of the company is thought to be the only one who can make key decisions. It means they get summoned to every meeting to signal their approval. If this sounds like what befalls you, it’s time to rally your employees and persuade them to have more confidence in themselves and take positive action themselves.


Excuse yourself from meetings where your presence is not essential


Focus on leading the business, not trying to micromanage it.


Analyse whether you are doing routine work that should be delegated to your staff or that could be outsourced to allow you to take a step back.


If you aim to tackle the tasks that will affect your business, rather than the ordinary, everyday administration duties, it’s vital that you opt-out of specific things to permit your employees to get on with handling the routine operational issues.


By saying “no” to getting involved with routine things that soak up your time, you can say “yes” to working on your priorities.


Stephen Covey’s management matrix


If you refer to Stephen Covey’s management matrix, you need to consider which of the four quadrants are taking up most of your time.


If you discover you are getting involved with tasks in quadrant three (urgent but not vital), it means that you’re responding to the pressure of other people, and are ignoring the more critical tasks that await and that should, in fact, be where you ought to be targeting your effort.


While you will not be able to avoid spending some time in quadrant one, the work you do in quadrant two can stop some of the quadrant one issues arising in the first place.


As an example:


  • Making plans will minimise the necessity for making last-minute preparations.
  • Spending more time on health and safety will lessen the occurrence of medical emergencies.
  • Having a more proactive IT Support function will minimise the number of occasions where IT emergencies arise.


Quadrant four speaks for itself and is, therefore, to be avoided as are the things categorised under quadrant three as these too will simply soak up the time you don’t have.



However, don’t completely lock yourself away in an ivory tower. But by the same token, don’t permit your staff to interrupt you constantly. You can schedule weekly personal meetings for such issues. Hold departmental meetings every so often (weekly/fortnightly/monthly as appropriate) at which such non-essential items can be discussed.


Emails can be especially disruptive. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to deal with them immediately. Instead, schedule a more convenient time to glance over them. Get a member of staff to run interference with your telephone calls to save time absorbing calls that interfere with your activities. Take essential calls only.


Check out these seven email productivity tips to ease work-life pressure.


Acknowledging and scheduling important work


If when you look at Covey’s quadrant two tasks, you discover you are not spending any time on them, you need to program them into your schedule


Program department review meetings plus any necessary one-on-ones


Your aim has to be to reserve time within your busy calendar for your priority tasks. It is what scheduling your priorities is all about


Once they have been captured, you must ensure they are achieved. Ensure that your calendar indicates that you are tied up while concentrating on these issues, and program reminders for the appropriate appointments. If these tasks will be recurring ones, program in regular appointments. Make it as difficult as possible to put these tasks off and instead make it as easy as you can to deal with them.



Guarding your capacity


It’s important not to allow distracting things to get in the way of progressing the things that matter most.


If anyone requests a meeting without checking if you are available, you should respond by proposing a convenient time that doesn’t negatively impact any of your priorities.


Also, by organising one-on-ones and departmental reviews, you can allocate time for the quadrant three activities. At the same time, you will be minimising the distractions that could otherwise delay progress on your priorities. It’s the perfect way of controlling the amount of time that gets taken up by any more minor issues.


Set aside and guard critical personal time as well


  • Affirm your commitment to physical exercise and schedule time.
  • Allocate time for family matters.
  • Set aside time to spend with loved ones.


These personal issues are just important, if not more so than your work priorities. If you don’t ring-fence and guard them, they may get discarded.


Maintaining a healthy work and personal life balance is essential. For example, rather than working late to get something done, if you notice you have a family event scheduled, make sure you are there. It will force you to plan your day more effectively and help to protect your personal life.

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