Priority Management – a heady chore

For many professionals, Friday is a day to soften the load. We try to leave the office early, schedule events into the day to break up the disciplined focus and look for distractions before Monday rolls around and we’re tied to our tasks again.

But for the entrepreneur, the focused business builder and professional trying to get ahead, Friday is a day for accounting.

Everyone has their number when it comes to what they aspire to with compensation. Likewise, everyone has their priorities they wish to focus on. Often the two are tied together.

What does this have to do with Fridays? Lots. By week’s end we have the chance to account for our actions. Simply looking at our schedule and task lists we see how we spent our time which makes it easy to compare to our week’s goals. Did we/didn’t we accomplish them?

And for those of us who are really focused, we spend time determining our priorities – those tasks that if active in we can do the best job expected of us.

For instance, I as a solo proprietor know my business priorities. Although they may have been different in the past, today, they can be lumped into a few categorical buckets. To determine my priorities, I set aside about 5 minutes to think through what my most effective actions are and compare them to what I believe I need to be doing with my time as a speaking/communication coach. Beyond that 5 minutes I made a list of the types of work necessary for my business, categorically speaking.

Determining our priorities is heady work.

It requires thoughtfulness. It requires mulling through what has worked for us in the past and what we expect of ourselves now. Additionally, it begs the question, what do others expect of me and does this line up with my mission?

This intrapersonal discipline – thinking things through – demonstrates balance in our productivity. To get results, we must first think, decide, act and assess.

As a solo business owner I have determined many duties are required of me and have lumped them into certain “buckets” of duties. For me they are client work, connecting with my network, preparing for services I am delivering, blogging/posting in social media, traveling to clients & events and handling administrative needs.

Once I listed all 6 of these areas on paper, I think further to determine how I typically use my time today. For instance, how much of my time, per bucket, do I spend in each area per week? Sure, week to week, this could change, yet to get a sense of how I spend my time in a week, I come up with percentages for each category.

Next I determine how many hours, on average, I work per week. So looking at a calendar I see my appts, my presentations, my time blocked off for preparation, for blogging and give some rough estimates of what I’m currently using my time for. Out of 50 hours, for instance, I may have spent 10 hours with clients, 5 blogging, 5 in preparation, 8 hours traveling, 15 hours connecting with people and 17 in administrative duties.

Now I have an idea of how I am using my time.

Next I determine how I wish to use my time, so I look at which categories of activity should require more of my time and which should require less. Once I calculate this into hours out of the 50 I spend in a week, I know how to work it into my calendar throughout the course of a 5- or 6-day work week. At this point I can now use a Friday to calculate time spent over the week and say, “Cool! I’m close to my expectation.” or “Wow! This is not what I wanted. “(Like the above numbers of 17 administrative hours which drastically affected the others.)

Take 15 minutes on a late Friday afternoon (or early morning, if you want to motivate your Friday activity) to track your priority management, then do this each Friday for a month to create your average time focus. You will learn enormous things about procrastination, time management and productivity.

Like budgeting money for a household, budgeting time for our priorities requires discipline.

It has us ask:

  • how much time do I have?
  • how many ways do I wish to use it?
  • how do I apportion my time now to these things?
  • what is my ideal distribution?
  • how have I done in managing it this week?

Once we give thought to these questions we have metrics for tracking our results.  And as we often hear, it’s all in the numbers. If we follow our credit card receipts, we see what’s important to us, or difficult for us to avoid. When we schedule our day or week with our priorities – just like if we divide our cash pie into slices for each line item in our budget – it’s much easier to manage our priorities.

But if we cut into our time “pie” impulsively instead of distributing it according to our priorities, we always run out of pie before we get to what’s important.

It’s Friday. Get heady about your priorities. Refer to the 5 questions above. (What else were you planning to do today? Nothing nearly as important, I am guessing, than managing your priorities.) Schedule next week out for them now, stick to them then, and account for the difference it makes a week from today.



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