Priority Setting 101 - using time effectively

<p>To make effective use of our time we need to – (A) establish what our priorities are, and (B) make sure our time usage reflects those priorities. By managing our priorities we can achieve more goals, and improve our work/life balance. We might be efficient at what we do, but if we are not doing the right things then we won’t be effective. This article focuses on three great tools to aid priority setting.</p>
<img src="/sites/default/files/pareto-principle.jpg" alt="Pareto Principle" width="300"/><!--break-->

<h3>1. Pareto 80/20 principle</h3>
Pareto’s principle states that we get 80% of our results from 20% of our efforts. For example – 20% of our customers brings in 80% of the revenue; 20% of your staff produce 80% of the results.

<b>Implication for priority setting</b> - make sure you assign top priority to the ‘20%’ that brings most of your results. We get the most results by focusing on the our most productive tasks. The problem is that we let ourselves get distracted by ineffective tasks like pointless meetings, information overload, and various time-wasters.

<h3>2. Time Management Matrix (Stephen Covey’s)</h3>
The time management matrix categorizes tasks by ‘importance’ and ‘urgency’ as shown below.

<img src="/sites/default/files/time-management-matrix.JPG" alt="Pareto Principle" width="450"/>

<b>Implication for priority setting</b> – According to Covey we should focus on important matters first (Quadrants I and II above), and try to or avoid or reduce work on the unimportant tasks (Quadrants III and IV above).

<h3>3. ABCDE priority method</h3>
The ABCDE priority method can be used on daily, weekly or whatever time basis you like. This method essentially involves classifying your tasks as an A,B, C,D or E as follows:
<li>A = Must Do tasks (e.g – I must do these today)
<li>B = Should Do (e.g – if possible I should do these today)
<li>C = Nice to do if enough time (e.g- if I could get this done today then it would be a bonus, but only I will only do if I have completed my A and B tasks).
<li>D = Delegate (e.g – I shouldn’t do this, I will give it to X or pay for y to do)
<li>E = Eliminate (e.g – put it in the bin, or delete it)
I personally, like to use the ABCDE method at the start of each day. It helps me focus on my 'must do' (A) tasks for the day.

<h3>Combining the tools together</h3>
An important thing to note is that the output from the first two methods (Pareto and Time management matrix) can feed into the ABCDE method. For example, urgent/important matters from the time management matrix become ‘A’ must-do items. While, the unimportant matters can be classified as either ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘E’ items. The tasks that produce 80% of your results should also become ‘A’ must-do or ‘B’ should-do items.

<img src="/sites/default/files/priority-list.JPG" alt="Pareto Principle" width="450"/>

What method(s) do you use to prioritise your tasks?

<b>Bonus tip:</b> Try to do something that contributes to your main goal every day.

<b>Quote:</b> <i>“If you want to make good use of your time, you've got to know what's most important and then give it all you've got"</i>(Iacocca, Lee)