Time management is a tricky thing.  There are tasks popping up constantly through the day.

Other people impose their urgency and schedule on you.  

If you are constantly putting out fires and feel like you are just spinning your wheels this is for you.

Enter Eisenhower

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower recognized the difference between urgent and important and he acted on this.  By delegating the urgent but not important, scheduling time to work on the important, and doing the tasks that are urgent and important immediately.

By Davidjcmorris - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74528894

Differentiate between important and urgent tasks

Identifying what is urgent and important in your life in real time as they enter your life feels a bit like a ninja skill. Here are few examples of urgent vs important:

  • Your cellphone bill is urgent. If you do not pay it on time, there will be a late fee, and eventually they will disconnect service.
  • Learning how to better invest, negotiate, manage time (o look, its meta), or perform in your profession are all important.
  • Responding to emails in your business is urgent.
  • Figuring out how to build systems for repeating concerns, improving processes, and training employees is important.

Create time to work on the important

The easiest way to do this is to block off time to work on these types of tasks in your calendar. Protect this time, do not allow it to be the first thing to get moved when a crunch comes.

It is not just the time though.  You also have to create the mental space to work on the important.  I find that either working on important things early in the morning before other people have put their priorities in my mind or after meditation are the best times to work on important items.  

Build a system to deal with the urgent

The Eisenhower system says to Delegate urgent tasks.  If you are in a situation where that is possible, great. If you are like many and do not have a personal assistant or direct reports who you can delegate to, there are still options.  

The key is to think of urgent tasks in the framework of it being just another one of those tasks.  So a cell phone bill is another payment, email is another communication, etc.  

Some urgent tasks can be tackled once and automated, for instance, bills can be put on auto-pay.  

If you cannot automate them, and you cannot delegate them.  Then the next best thing is to schedule time to tackle them.  If early morning is great for important tasks, right before lunch is good for urgent tasks.  It is a good time to get tasks cleared out of your headspace and move on.

What if it is not urgent or important?

Then you don't need to be doing it!  Watching the last season of The Walking Dead falls under this category.

Following up on certain emails and some networking with vague incremental value.  If they do not work move you closer to your dream, do not hesitate to eliminate them from your day.

“Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” Tim Ferris

Without active moderation, vast majority of activities through the day fall into this category.  It takes effort to consciously work on only making progress on the important and urgent throughout the day.

Winter in Towneley Park
Photo by Paul Green / Unsplash