One of the most frequent responses I hear when talking to people about improvement programs or improvement projects: They just simply do not have enough time. They say, "I want to find time to fix broken processes, but the time is just not there."
We live in a world of constant disruptions: phone calls, walk-ins, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, text messages, push notifications about news or your favorite sports team, etc., etc., etc. I had a discussion with a doctor recently; he told me about a study that showed people are actually becoming addicted to distractions (you know, like when you reach in your pocket to check your cell phone because you were sure you felt it vibrate, only to find out it didn't).
If you feel like you are always overbooked with so much to do, no end in sight and like you could not possibly find one more moment in your day - there is hope. This hope comes in two words: Focus and Routine.
Do this: make a list of every single thing that you have to do (if you already have a “to do list” – kudos to you, this part is done). Now determine the importance and urgency of each - either a task is important or it isn't. Same thing with urgency. Use these definitions to help decide:
Important: Tasks that are important to the success of the business, your job performance, or personal goals.
Urgent: Tasks that have a due date near or rapidly approaching. If there is no defined due date, it cannot be urgent.
1. Important and urgent tasks: Need to complete these fairly quickly - if you don't there will be a significant consequence.
2. Important and not urgent tasks: Typically longer term, High-Payoff activities. Make time to get these done - and schedule them in your calendar.
3. Not important and urgent tasks: Usually requests from other people that are not "mission critical" type activities. Delegate these (if you have the option), automate, or wait until the need for the task pops up again.
4. Not important and not urgent tasks: No value + No deadline = No attention from you. Get rid of these ASAP (and smile when you do)!
Many of us are aware of the "4 Quadrant" prioritization matrix discussed above (thank you Stephen Covey), but to be a success - it needs to be an integrated part of your day. Three systems need to be in place to ensure you are the one managing your workday, and not the other way around:
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For those that are buried in a mountain of "to do's" and don't have a method for prioritizing or a routine to stay focused - give this method a try. Like right now. You will thank yourself!
For those of you that already have a successful prioritization process, I'd love to hear about it - please share in the comments below.
Christopher M. Spranger, MBA, ASQ MBB
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