Maybe you know that feeling of, “Everything I do is important and urgent, and there is so little time”, chasing your tail to keep up with all the demands around you and the tasks you have to do.
The truth is that you cannot manage time; you can only manage yourself by having your priorities right.
The Pareto Principle says that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your actions. It’s universal and goes for almost all areas of our lives.
Productivity is about doing the right things at the right time, and the question is if you are focusing on the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results in your life. It comes down to analysing in more detail what you are spending your time on.
Keep in mind that knowledge is power, but it’s using knowledge that is powerful.
Many of us have a “To Do” list, but the challenge is how we prioritise all the activities on that (long) list.
Here is a tool to organise your To Do list (and all other activities) in four simple areas. It can actually free up some more time for you to enjoy life or simply be ready to better handle the activities that inevitably will keep coming.

Your goals and mission
Firstly, be clear on your short and long term goals. Without goals we run around not achieving what we want in life. Remember, goals must be smart goals in order to be effective — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results oriented and Time related.
Secondly, create your personal mission statement. Ask yourself, “What am I really here for?”. Instead of thinking of your job title, think what important outcomes are actually produced from your efforts.
A strong statement will ignite your motivation and drive every day. It helps to keep a laser focus and to prioritise the important things over all other tasks.
This is not just for people in business. A full-time mother can change her title to “I am supporting my children in all aspects of their lives getting prepared to embrace the challenges life throws at them”.

Prioritise according to your mission
These activities are only emergencies, last-minute preparations and pressing problems that require your attention now and you have to stop whatever you are doing.
Tip: Aim for spending no more than 10% of your time on these reactive tasks.

Important and not urgent — quality time
This is the most important time for activities that achieve your goals and have the greatest impact on your success; they are directly linked to your mission. They must be blocked out in your diary as they are not sudden surprise tasks.
Work on your short, medium and long term goals, like preparation for important meetings, working on projects/proposals, planning, exercise, learning new skills, nurturing family and friendships, supporting your children’s development.
If you fail to identify the right activities in this area they will suddenly become urgent and important. Aim to spend 40% of your time on these activities.

Not important but urgent — Distraction
These tasks are the number one time killer. Understand that interruptions are part of your job to deal with all the trivial but necessary activities of everyday life. They are necessary to deal with but are not important to your overall mission. Very often you can delegate many of these tasks.
They are often important to others, like responding to emails, phone calls/meetings, social activities and admin tasks. Attend to them quickly, complete them and move on with more important things. Expect to spend 40% of your time on these activities.
Tip: Learn to be assertive and push back. Say no with a yes — “I’m happy to send you a proposal; I can have it ready by Wednesday afternoon, is that okay?”
It will free up time right now and allow you to allocate the task the time it deserves — later…

Not important and not urgent— Time Wasting
We cannot avoid some slack time; our brain needs a break. The problem occurs if our (important) research suddenly turns into clicking on links that caught your attention but have no relevance to the tasks at hand.
Tip: Identify these activities and time them. You might be surprised how much time we spend on nothing. Aim to limit these activities to no more than 10% of your time.

In conclusion, keep in mind:
• important tasks are activities that lead to achieving your goals and have the greatest impact on your success;
• urgent tasks demand immediate attention, but are often associated with someone else’s goals rather than your own.

Peter Kristensen is director of
Rapport Leadership, and is a business
and leadership coach/trainer.
Ph: 0449 658 844.