If you want to achieve more and successfully conquer the overwhelm of modern, fast-paced life, the following steps will help you to achieve your goals, while maintaining effective work-life balance.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey advises us to "begin with the end in mind". This means having a plan to achieve the goals that are important to you (both work and personal), setting a timeframe for achieving goals and breaking them down into manageable steps. Satisfaction comes from achieving goals that are in line with your values (what matters to you) and that engage your strengths, so that the activity required to achieve goals is enjoyable. The SMART acronym can be helpful in setting effective goals (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).
If you have a clear plan, it's easier to prioritise and say “no” where appropriate. Covey recommends assessing tasks in terms of an urgent/important matrix (see below).
urgent & important
frenetic - do it now!!
not urgent & important
proactive - schedule
urgent & not important
reactive - delegate / systemetise / say no
not urgent & not important
time wasting - eliminate
Effective time managers spend most of their time in quadrant 2 planning and executing activities that enable them to achieve their long-term goals. Proactive, non-urgent/important activities include:
Quadrant 1 represents urgent and important tasks and, inevitably, we all have to deal with unexpected crises or problems. Stress arises when people spend most of their time working on frenetic, urgent activities. Quadrant 2 activities can end up here if not actioned in a timely manner. If you work proactively, you can minimise the amount of time you have to spend in the frenetic space (and keep stress at bay).
I think everyone would agree that being drawn into activities that are not important and don't contribute to achieving goals is not a good investment of time. Effective time managers avoid unimportant activities wherever possible. Quadrant 3 activities (urgent and not important) include interruptions, and some phone calls and meetings and often have a sense of urgency driven by others. Try to delegate, systemise or say no where possible. Quadrant 4 activities (not-urgent and not important) are simply a waste of time and should be avoided. We often spend time in this space when we’re procrastinating about challenging tasks by doing something that is fun or distracting.
Think about how you spend your time and commit to prioritising non-urgent, important activities that create long term success (set a goal of achieving 80% of your time in quadrant 2). Achieve your long-term goals by scheduling and focusing on what's important.
A daily to do list helps you to focus on accomplishing your priority tasks. Once you’ve created a plan and established your long-term goals, taking a disciplined approach to managing your daily activities will help you to stay on track. Break long-term goals down into monthly, weekly and daily priorities and make a to do list at the end of each day with your top priorities for the following day. If you allocate timeframes to each activity, it will be clear whether or not your planned workload for the day is achievable and this will also generate a sense of urgency to complete tasks within the allocated timeframe. Work through your daily tasks in order of priority. When interruptions occur, write them down and assess their importance against the items you already have on your list. If you can’t delegate, systemise or say no, re-prioritise your to do list. Carry forward any outstanding items at the end of the day.
If you put yourself first, you’ll always be able to perform at your best. Healthy nutrition, exercise, adequate breaks away from your desk, routines for decompressing at the end of the day and getting a good night’s sleep are essential. Some tips are:
Posted: Monday 1 November 2021