Life today is hectic. So much to do and so less time. You may have so many goals in life. But in spite of putting in a lot of effort, you are unable to achieve them. Do you wonder why?
Achieving your goals can be possible only when you put First-things-First! To know why and how to read on…
Every goal you aim for can be achieved by performing a set of tasks. Each task, in this set, has a different priority based on its connection to your goal.
Doing First-things-First means to focus on tasks that have more value in achieving your goals. These tasks may be called Priority Tasks. Making priorities and acting on them is an important job whether you are a student, an executive or even a member of the top management.
Why you should do First-things-First
Every moment in life is valuable. Most people are careless with priorities and waste their precious time in unimportant things in their daily lives.
The result – work is delayed. Focus and attention on important things are completely lost. Consequently, it becomes too late to complete your Priority jobs.
The reasons are many… The biggest reason is that we do not know which job is important and which is not. Sometimes, external things and the environment influence or exert undue pressure. They demand your attention even though they have no bearing on your goals.
Doing First-things-First will help you focus on the most important tasks. Every moment is covered appropriately when doing so.
Different methods to set priorities
How to decide what a priority job is and what is not? There are many time-tested methods to understand and categorize your tasks based on priorities. Here are a few methods that you can adopt.
Each method has different advantages and disadvantages.
1. Setting Reminders
This method is the basic one and commonly used, even at the domestic level. The procedure has just two steps:
Preparing to-do lists
- Setting reminders for the same
These reminders call your attention to a task when it reaches its deadline. This method is easy to implement. But long-term planning cannot be completed with this method.
This method helps in setting deadlines for tasks while anticipating future events. Some tools that you can use here are calendar and appointment books. This method has been effective for executives who have a lot of daily tasks and need to organize them based on priorities.
However, deadlines and appointments bring your focus and attention only on official activities. Personal relations, etc., may be pushed to the background. A provision should be made for these tasks as well, which is ignored in this method. For example, an emergency call from home may not be encouraged during a meeting… So there arises a need to find better methods by including these factors also.
3. Priority Setting and Planning
This method involves:
First setting priorities based on goals and values and scheduling daily tasks. The tools used for this method are Personal Organizer and e-Planner.
This method helps you focus on your set goals. However, situations may arise when goals are reached, but health issues and personal values like honesty, etc., may be bypassed.
4. Time Management Matrix
This is one of the most popular Time Management concepts of modern times, developed by President Dwight Eisenhower and made popular by Stephen Covey.
The Time Management matrix can be applied for priority setting solutions at all levels – beginning from very minor tasks such as household jobs to high profile Management tasks such as Decision Making.
Based on the ideology of this method, our daily activities can be classified into four quadrants. Each quadrant has tasks that seek your attention.
But the focus should be more on the one box that can lead us closer to our goals.
The four quadrants and explanation for each quadrant are as follows:
|Urgent Tasks||Non-Urgent Tasks|
Tasks here to be done and dispensed with at the earliest!
Your main focus should be on these tasks!
Tasks here to be delegated to others
Avoid/Discard these tasks completely
Urgent – Important Tasks
Examples: Deadlines, emergencies, important meetings
All pressing issues (jobs that have arrived at their deadline) that have a linkage to your achieving goals are here. They need your immediate attention. These jobs have to be completed quickly so as to go to the next and the most important quadrant.
Some people spending a lot of time in this quadrant are at the lower levels of the organization, accountants, etc.
Important but Not Urgent Tasks
Examples: Planning, relationships, decision making, etc.
This quadrant is one place where the most important people in the organization should focus on.
The importance accorded to this area will improve the quality of tasks leading to the achievement of goals in a phased manner.
The tasks in this area are not urgent but have a great bearing on the achievement of your goals. It is the area where one should focus on to achieve the most important goals such as life goals.
The importance of the tasks in this quadrant is realized only when these tasks gain urgency as they enter Quadrant 1.
Take the example of your health. There is no sense of urgency when you are in the pink of health. But you should maintain health by eating right and exercising on a daily basis. Else you will enter Quadrant 1 – rushing to a hospital for surgery due to negligence.
There are many reasons that this area is often ignored. One, it needs more time and attention from you. Two, the results of those efforts and time are not visible in the short run.
This example can help you understand how imperative this quadrant is.
A coconut tree planted today will grow only after 10 – 15 years. But, when it reaches maturity, it will give you coconuts for the rest of your life and even beyond!
Urgent but Not Necessary
Examples: Regular phone calls/emails, less important meetings, etc.
Do not confuse tasks in this quadrant with Quadrant 1 because, though the tasks here look important, they will not help you achieve the goals you have set for yourself.
For example, doing a report for a friend may have no influence on your salary slip or promotion at all.
Time Waster – Not Urgent
Example: Social media
This quadrant creates no value at all and does not have any potential to lead you to goal achievement. Excessive time on social media can be slotted under this category.
Synopsis of Time Management Matrix
Experts have shown that most people waste their time in Quadrant 1, 3 and 4.
Urgent things (Quadrant 1) keep coming up daily. We lose energy in fire-fighting and doing jobs for others while wasting time in Q4 tasks like watching useless TV shows that are not connected to our goals. To focus on your actual goals and achieve results:
- Tasks of Quadrant 4 should be avoided completely
- Delegate Quadrant 3 to someone else
- Finish Quadrant 1 quickly and spend more time/focus on Quadrant 2 which is the most important area
Time is not limitless. Using it judiciously will help you achieve your goals ultimately. Doing everything is impossible. But it is okay to say no to a few things and concentrate on a few important things first using some priority setting methods. Emphasizing on First-things-First is the only solution here.