While ‘to do lists’ may still be a worthwhile activity, I have learnt recently that a better approach for me is not to think of it in terms of time management but to realise it is task management.
I have begun asking myself the following questions:
- Is this really a necessary task?
- Do I work on the band aid fix rather than looking deeper at the cause of problems
- Why do I put off some tasks that I know are important but may be perceived as time wasting? (or
cause people to think I’m not busy)
- Am I 'buffering' other people from their work because they have got themselves into trouble
or cannot manage their own tasks?
- Am I working on certain tasks because they are a passion and if I do, are they the right pipeline tasks?
Coveys “First Things First” habit is captured in his Time Management Matrix. Managing our task effectively means spending our time on things that are
important and not just urgent.
Defining this difference has helped me to focus the use of my time:
- Important: activities which have outcomes that lead to the achievement of your goals
- Urgent: activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of
someone else’s goals
I have often found myself spending a lot of my time on the urgent activities because these are the “squeaky wheels
that get the grease”. My attention is drawn to these because if I don’t deal with them immediately
they could have significant negative consequences on myself, or worse - others.
The Urgent/Important matrix helps me to think about when and how to prioritise certain tasks. It helps me to ignore my natural tendency to focus on urgent activities at the expense of
what is actually important.