For Time Management Keep Your Priorities In Mind
by Nancy F. Clark (Follow her on Twitter)
Named one of Forbes: Thirty Women Entrepreneurs To Follow On Twitter
(Listen to it here.)
If you’re a working woman, chances are you want to be a success in your job and you want tobe a success with your family and your friends, and you want some time for yourself as well. Talk about a full bucket!
Well, there’s only so much time available in that bucket—we aren’t allowed to make it bigger. So the quantity of tasks we put into this bucket each day is limited. You know you could easily fill it tomorrow with any 1 of these categories:
1. First, you need some research. You need to know what works best for other working women. Our audience members at www.WomensMedia.com have tested our ideas and have saluted the one I’m about to tell you. Most of these women have agreed with us that they’re near a computer and would like to use it for their lists. We agree. This does make it nice and easy—and it looks good too! Aesthetics are important. Well, actions are too.
2. Now you need to know how to format any item on your To-Do List. It can’t be something difficult to do in one sitting, like “Prepare the Marketing Report.” You might have a file for the Marketing Report. If you’re one of those Super-Organized Women, you probably have an outline of the steps that need to be taken—and the steps are in order! Nah, I’m not one of those women either. So, just think about the Marketing Report and decide what is one physical action that should be taken first. It might be an action such as, “Email, phone, or visit Jan to get her data.” That’s still not quite right. You have to state the exact action you’re going to take—OK, OK, I’ll email her.
3. You remember those 4 categories I mentioned, Job, Family, Friends, and Yourself? (You might want to add others, such as Church, etc.) Well, start with each of these separately, putting To-Do items—just a few—under each. When you’re a working woman it’s tough to decide which category is more important—so don’t do that yet!
4. At the left of each item put:
- “H” for high priority
- “M” for medium priority, or
- “L” for low priority.
You have a column of priority levels, then tab over, and you have the tasks listed. Look over the items you’ve listed as High Priority. Now think about the direction you want your career to take. Are you missing a task that will lead you there? This only takes a minute, but it’s a minute you should give your To-Do List each day. Now put your tasks into priority order, and see why using a computer is so helpful.
Here’s the customization decision only you can make: Do you want to see 4 categories on your To-Do List separately or do you want to lump them together? Either way, keep the total number of tasks low. You want this to be a Doable To-Do List for the day.
5. At the end of the day, put an “X” in front of the tasks you’ve completed. Congratulate yourself for doing a good—or pretty good—job! In fact, why don’t you give yourself a little reward? Why not? It reinforces this good behavior—and it adds to the “Yourself” category that’s probably not seeing much activity.
I have 2 Business Tips of the Week to give you. I know I’m going overboard.
Working women use those computers! Is there a chance down the line that you’ll want to compile a list of completed tasks to show someone else? Or for your own use? In that case, save the file with the date and use the untackled tasks—don’t feel bad if there are some—to start the next day’s list. When you’re assigning the high, medium, or low priority to these reappearing tasks, add the letter to the front of the line. This way you can quickly see if you’re avoiding an item—there’ll be a double or a triple letter there. Ooow, sounds bad. You’re right; it’s not good. My advice is to uncover the problem. Is this something someone else should be handling? Is there an unpleasant side to this task that you need to commit to handling? What will happen if this task is never handled? Hmmm, maybe that’s an incentive.
Here’s another customization decision you must make: Do you think it will help you to put approximate times next to some of the items? For example:
- “I’ll do this before 11 am.” – or
- “At 2 pm I’ll drop everything else and I’ll do this task” – or
- “Before I go into the meeting I will do this. And I mean it!”
If so, put this in parentheses after the item. In fact, I list it in blue ink instead of black. Aesthetics, you know are important—almost as important as actions.
If you’re one of those people who are really into self-improvement and want to compete with yourself—as I’m doing—here’s a bonus tip. At the end of each day, see how many tasks of each priority you’ve completed. For instance, if you finished 3 out 5 high priority items, write down 3/5 H, if you did all 4 of the medium priorities, put 4/4 M, and if you hit 2 out of 5 low items, put 2/5 L. Now put these fractions down on a chart and see how much you can improve!
Now, go out there and act on your To-Do List. It’s a great stress reliever!
On our website, WomensMedia Expert Advice for Business Women you should read these excellent articles:
Setting Goals: The 6 P’s of Goal Setting by Susanna Palomares
Self-Talk Your Way to a Stronger Self-Image by Dianne Schilling