Setting priorities is a matter of deciding what is very important. In this case, “important” means significant to me. What activities and roles give my life meaning? These are the components of my life where I would like to succeed the most.
Not everything in my life can be a priority. Many important things will compete for attention over my lifetime, but there are not enough hours in anybody’s lifetime to give attention to everything that could potentially be a priority. Determining my basic priorities is a key exercise in moving toward more efficient use of my time. My basic priorities provide a means for making time choices, helping me decide where it is important to invest myself and where I am able to let go.
On a daily basis, I also have to learn to set task priorities.
Prioritizing tasks includes two steps:
• Recognizing what needs to be done
• Deciding on the order in which to do the tasks
How do I determine what work needs to be done? For the most part, it relates back to my basic priorities. To be efficient in my time use, I have to weed out the work that does not fit with my basic priorities. I am learning to say “no” to jobs that look interesting and may even provide a secure sense of accomplishment but do not fit with my basic priorities. I also have to be able to separate out the tasks that require busywork that tends to eat away at my time. Many tasks that fill my day may not really need doing at all or could be done less frequently. Task prioritizing means working on the most significant tasks first regardless how tempted I am to less significant tasks out of the way.
Certain skills help in using time effectively. Most of these skills are mental. While it is not necessary to develop all of the skills, each contributes to my ability to direct time usage.
Time sense is the skill of estimating how long a task will take to accomplish. A good sense of time will help me be more realistic in planning my activities. I’m working on it. It helps prevent the frustration of never having quite enough time to accomplish tasks.
To increase my time sense, I begin by making mental notes of how long it actually takes to do certain routine tasks like getting ready in the morning or running a load of laundry.
I also use “Goal setting”. It is the skill of deciding where you want to be at the end of a specific time. Goal setting gives direction to my morning, my day, my week and my lifetime. The exercise on deciding my lifetime priorities is a form of goal setting. I have learnt to write down my goals. Before that, goals for me were just wishes. Now it’s different. I can visualize myself achieving these goals as I write them down. I try to keep my goals specific, as in “weed the flower beds in front of the house” rather than “work on the yard.” Well, I’m getting better at this, on step at a time. Isn’t that exciting?