We all ask ourself this questions from time to time… In the book The accidental Salesperson Chris Lytle said “Management is a series of interruptions constantly being interrupted by other interruptions.” And I can not possibly agree with him more. In fact, when I look at most organizations I sometimes wonder how anything gets done at all. Look at your week and add up the number of hours you spend putting out fires and sitting in meetings you would rather not be in, and suddenly it is clear why most managers put in way more that the normal 40 hours our companies say we should be working.
In order to get all of the things done in a week we need to complete there are two simple tasks we need to do. First, make a list, and second prioritize and stick to that list.
This is what I do:
First, I write a list of everything I need to get done this week. Then I break down that list by day. And finally I prioritize the daily list based on importance with the most important tasks on top.
The next step is the key. When I get blind sided by a fire, I look at what I am working on now and ask myself “Is this issue more important than the task I am working on?” If it is, I will take a break and try to solve that issue or at least cool down the fire enough to get back to the other task. If it is not I will properly prioritize it in my list of things I need to do and move forward with the current task at hand.
One of the least used features in Microsoft Outlook is the task manager. This tool will allow you to keep lists, prioritize them, and sort them by a variety of fields. It will even let you assign them to others and follow up on the status with a click of the button. I highly recommend you learn how to use this feature. You can get started by clicking here.
The key to this system is discipline. You must have the discipline to do what you say you will, when you say you will, and be willing to hold off on dealing with an urgent but unimportant issue if the thing you are currently working on is truly of a higher priority.
I will be doing more on time management over the next few weeks. Please feel free to share your own tips and tricks by leaving comments here.