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Make Priorities to Manage Time -by- Angela V. Woodhull, Ph.D.

Make Priorities to Manage Time
-by- Angela V. Woodhull, Ph.D.

Shortly after returning to the office after a three-day business trip, Bob noticed a heap of unopened mail scattered on his desk. There was also a memo from his boss, “Where’s the report that was due last Friday? See me immediately when you get back.” Bob searched stacks from his “piling system” on the floor. Still no report. Then the phone rang – emergency meeting. It was time to stop everything and rush to the meeting.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, don’t worry. The solutions are easier than you think. Some people mistakenly believe that the solution is to buy an expensive leather-bound organizer, but studies show that organizers are discarded by most people within a few weeks. They work against human nature. Real time management means learning to set priorities doing the “big rocks” first.

Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says the primary principle of effective time management is to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Picture, in your mind, a large, empty glass cookie jar. Imagine that to your right is a clear plastic baggy, inside of which are rocks, enough to fill the glass cookie jar to the brim. Imagine seeing yourself filling the jar with the rocks. But there is still room. So you pour gravel into the jar. Since the jar still has some space in it, add a bag of sand. You might think that the jar is now filled to maximum capacity, but you can take a pitcher of water and add it to the sand, gravel and big rocks.

Now, try doing this visual exercise in reverse. First pour in all of the water, then the sand, then the gravel. And what happens when it[s time to put in the same number o of rocks? Well, you can’t.
This analogy illustrates the difference between effective and ineffective time managers. Many people are overly busy, but they’re doing all the sand and water. Take time to think before proceeding. Write a weekly plan. Daily plans don’t let you see the big picture.

Some companies are teaming up so that one person does the sand and water generated by the rest of the staff.
Remember the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your work! Walter Klechel III, former editor of Fortune magazine, lives by the following big-rock principles: “If you take something on, give something up.” Or, you can follow Consultant Nick Psaki’s Golden Rule of Time management: “You cannot do it all.”

Some people are very resistant to the idea of doing the big rocks first. They mistakenly believe that everything is a priority. When I consult to such organizations, I typically discover a staff that has not been work well as a management, in many cases, has imposed unrealistic, inflexible rules that run contrary to the principles of effective time management.
The real solution is to have a consultant teach the staff how to communicate their priorities, set limits, and pace themselves.
Employees cannot generate their own separate list of big rocks. A coherent work team must take time to reflect on the following questions: “Where are we going?” “Why are we doing this?” “Who are we serving?” “What is our real purpose?” “What is the one thing, that if we did it consistently, would produce the best results?”

Discovering priorities and working as a team, however, is not a one-time process. Rod Canion, a former executive for Compaq Computers, said, “In the past eight years, I’ve Jena S., an accountant for a large corporation in Minneapolis, returned to work after a three-month maternity leave. Among the projects waiting for her were the monthly reports she is required to generate for clients. Understanding the principle of The Big Rocks, she called the clients and asked, “Listen, do you really need three months of data, or could I simply send you one, large quarterly report?” All of her clients overwhelmingly agreed that they would prefer quarterly documents. Now, she generates these reports only four times a year instead of 12.

Remember: The Big Rocks Principle applies to your family life, too. Make sure you schedule time to think about your priorities before proceeding.

In “Manage Your Time, Your Work, Your Self,” Donna and Merrill Douglas wrote, “Preparing a weekly plan requires only about 30 minutes for most people, but it will enable them to recover at least an hour a day next week.”

What would you do if you could free up extra time? Think of all the possibilities!

With a little bit of creative thought, you should be able to find ways to team up with others and do the job with greater efficiency. The more suggestions you make that help support your work team, the happier everyone will be.

Angela V. Woodhull, Ph.D. is a corporate and government communication consultant and trainer, and a licensed private investigator. She is the author of The New Time Manager, Private Investigation Strategies and Techniques, Police Communication in Traffic Stops, and Coping With Difficult Teachers. Dr. Woodhull can be reached at (352) 327-3665, (352) 219-6994 or via e-mail:

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