We have all tried our hand at time management to varying degrees of success and consistency. I, for one, went to the extent of 15-minute slots, endeavouring to cram more into my day. Now I realize that it was the wrong way round. Applying time management without time prioritization, meant I was doing the wrong things very efficiently.
Time prioritization, at its core, is figuring out what comes first, and then second and then third. It also tells us what might have to be sacrificed if we genuinely put first things first.
We have likely all come across the rock, pebbles and sand in the jar story. And we all agree we have to get the rocks in the jar first, so the pebbles and sand can fit as well. In reality, however, we don’t do that very well. As we embark on our daily routines, the sand and pebbles are often much easier to deal with, and we feel productive as we diligently knock them off. Meanwhile, the rocks get little or no attention because we're too busy, they are too difficult, or we can put them off to tomorrow.
Time prioritization makes us deal with the big rocks first and not stop dealing with them until they are no longer big rocks. The pebbles and sand then take their proper place around the periphery of the rocks.
Take email for an example. This year I have set myself the discipline of doing email three times a day and for one hour in total – 15 minutes first thing in the morning, 30 minutes at lunchtime, and 15 minutes at the end of the workday. If that isn’t sufficient, I will work through outstanding email in the evenings. Between those times, the email goes to the background, and I get on with my rocks. Meetings and conference calls can be another distraction – if it is within our power to limit those or at least shorten them, we should do that.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask yourself this big question, “What is the one thing I can do today that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” That could be tough to answer, and you might need to think long and hard about it. But if you can define it, you may have found an enormous rock in your jar that needs your immediate attention. Work hard on that, and over time the jar will start to look cleaner and more organized. If that takes three or more hours today and tomorrow, and the next day, it is still worth it! The pebbles and sand, well, they will have to wait.