Separating the Urgent from the Important from the Nice to do
Time is a precious commodity, especially for the SME business owner. Using time wisely is perhaps one of the biggest challenges. After all when your business is your passion, it’s almost impossible to decide what you want to do first – surely everything is important?
Efficient use of time is a frequent conversation I have with clients. Indeed today I received an enquiry from someone who runs a small business and is run ragged. As he said, “There are just not enough hours in the day and I need some help to work smarter not longer and harder. Is this something you can help with?”
Well good news, I can definitely help and hopefully we will soon be working together so he can reclaim some of his time back as well as his sanity!
Firstly, we need to do 2 things:
- Find the space to stand back and look at our priorities – long term, mid-term and immediate. If we don’t find this time to stand back (which is where coaching can help) then you will never see the ‘wood for the trees’
- Once you have done this you need to separate your tasks, identifying what truly is URGENT from tasks that are IMPORTANT from those that you would LIKE TO DO and act as I outline below.
We too often get side-tracked on tasks that feel urgent but in actual fact don’t move your business forward so you have to have an honest conversation with yourself about why you are investing time on these tasks.
Let’s look at some definitions:
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘important‘ as ‘of great significance or value’. When something is important, it’s vital to your business and will move you forward (and can often be big tasks – which is why we don’t do them!)
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘urgent‘ as ‘requiring immediate action or attention’. Urgent tasks are crises that need to be dealt with now to avoid getting out of hand (but they are often small tasks, like answering an email).
Adopting the 4Ds to task management
Here is a simple well-known approach to categorising and prioritising your evergrowing to-do list:
- Tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT
- Your action is to get them done today!
- Tasks that are IMPORTANT but not URGENT
- Your action is to schedule time to complete these tasks
- Tasks that are URGENT but not IMPORTANT (e.g. tasks in the future like ‘booking a flight’)
- Your action is to consider who you can delegate these to?
- Tasks that are not URGENT and not IMPORTANT
- Your action is to DELETE THEM!
If you start your day by catergorising your to do list in this way you can be sure you are using your time in the most impactful way whilst letting go of those tasks that won’t make a difference.
Sounds straight forward right? Well of course it’s the application of this that is crucial so if you need some help please get in touch.