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Managing Your Time Better: Setting Your Priorities

written by: Profacgillies•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/6/2011

Having a clear idea of your aims and objectives and what you are trying to achieve, the relative importance of each activity to your bottom line, and how you want to allocate your time can help you set priorities and stop you wasting time. Time is money!

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    Introduction

    Do you have a clear idea of your aims and objectives and what you are trying to achieve? If you do not have a clear idea of your aims and objectives and know what you are trying to achieve, then you run the risk of wasting a lot of time. If you do not know the relative priorities and the importance of each activity to your bottom line, you could be spending time on the wrong things that do not bring significant benefits and wasting a lot of valuable time.

    There is a four-step process that you can use to ensure that remain focused on those activities which bring the most benefit, and financial rewards.

    1. Define clearly your aims and objectives

    2. Prioritise those tasks which contribute the most to meeting your aims and objectives

    3. Identify how much time you spend on each of these priority tasks

    4. Monitor your time to see whether you achieve your priority tasks within your allocated time and how much time you spend on other less important tasks

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    Defining your aims and objectives

    Aims and objectives provide focus and inform priorities. Aims are generally overall goals, such as to earn $x,000 per year, or to earn enough money whilst still finding time for the family. Objectives are more specific, and define how you will meet your overall aim. Objectives might be to complete a specific project, or win a contract with a particular business, or to get an article published in a particular journal or magazine.

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    Prioritising those tasks which contribute the most to meeting your aims and objectives

    If objectives are specific enough, they may be broken down into a series of component tasks, necessary to achieve that objective. These tasks can then be prioritised over other activities at least until the objective has been met. If you have too many tasks at any one time, further prioritization is required, and choosing which tasks are the most important is then a matter of saying “If this task does not get done until tomorrow, what are the consequences?" and “Who is the most important customer?"

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    Identify how much time you spend on each of these priority tasks

    Just because a task is important, does not mean you can justify spending an infinite amount of time on it. Make sure that the time you spend is in proportion to the value of the task. Remember the law of diminishing returns. Polishing can be fun, but spending that time on the next task once a result is good enough can be more productive and profitable. Your time is often the biggest cost component.

    As

    profit = price obtained - cost incurred

    spending too long can significantly affect the profitability of a task.

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    Monitor your time to see whether you achieve your priority tasks within your allocated time and how much time you spend on other less important tasks

    Do you know how much time you spend on different activities? It can be a surprising activity to keep a detailed diary for a week and see where the time goes. You may find that some tasks take far longer than you thought, and longer than is justifiable by their value to you. It can also help your future planning and identify where you may need to change the way you work to reduce the time spent on non-productive activities.