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A Guide to Managing Time

2. Priorities: First Things First

Squeezing time for your key results into your busy day can present a challenge, especially for those tasks that need uninterrupted time for thinking and concentrating. One solution is to use a funnel. Ours is a virtual funnel, but like the real thing it is a device with a wide mouth at the top where you can pour in your overview of key results and the tasks needed to achieve them, and a narrow exit point at the other end where the individual priorities emerge to be inserted into your plan for the day. It integrates your long-term plans into your daily schedule, helping you to move forward towards tomorrow whilst still keeping on top of today.

This will still not guarantee that everything will get done when you plan to do it and that all of the other problems will then go away – we deal with some of these issues in the next section – but at least it highlights the just one or two key things that you need to focus on as the rest of the day unfolds.

Slicing the Salami

How do you eat a salami? You slice it as thinly as you can and then eat it one slice at a time. Do the same for your bigger tasks. The thinner you slice them the easier they will fit into your busy day. Plan to achieve your bigger goals through taking many small steps. Or as Sir Edmund Hilary said when asked how one set about climbing Everest ‘you just start by putting one foot in front of the other’.

Go through the key areas you created, pick out the bigger jobs that need to be done and attach lists to them breaking them down into small steps. Once you have a list of the individual activities that need to be done you can scan these quickly at regular intervals (the start of each week?) without having to go back and think about the overall projects.


So what comes first? As you scan your list of what needs to be done think about has to be done this month. A month is a long time in terms of time management (you cannot even be sure about what is going to happen tomorrow!) so you will not waste time writing details plans unless you are working on complex projects where you work has to be coordinated with others. Instead just highlight the key tasks for the month ahead and think about what progress you need to make in the week ahead.

As you jot these things down decide which of them Must be done this week (because they have now become urgent as well as important and/or your job depends on them), which of them Should be done this week if you are to stay on track with your priorities, and which of them Could be done, if there is time. Put an M, S or C along side each to remind you.

Planning the day

The last step in building this process is to pick out the priorities for each day. Once again it helps to think in terms of what Must be done, what Should be done and what Could be done each day if there is time. This works better than creating a rigid plan or writing a long to do list every day (has anybody ever actually done everything on their daily to do list on that day?)

Having thought about what you are going to do today why not think about when is going to be the best time to do it? Which time of day is your best time for working on the important stuff – are you a morning person? Or an afternoon person? Or perhaps a just-after-lunch person? Which time of the day is likely to have the least number of interruptions (or, if that is a silly question, at which time of the day do you stand the best chance of managing them? More on this in the next section).

You may find it useful to block some time out for yourself during these best times to reserve it for the key tasks.

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The Problem with Time

1. The Vision Thing: Creating an Overview
Doing the right thing

> 2. Priorities: First Things First
What needs to be done and what comes first

3. Working the Plan:
Making time for the important things

4. Delegation:
Getting more done through others

5. Procrastination:
Think positive and do it now!

6. Perfect, Perfect, Perfection:
Quantity versus quality - Knowing when to move on

7. Putting Time Management to Work:
So much for the theory, now for the practice