Perhaps the greatest single
problem that people have
today is "time poverty."
Working people have too much to do
and too little time. Most people feel
overwhelmed with responsibilities
and activities, and the harder they
work, the further behind they fall.
This sense of being on a never-ending
treadmill can cause you to fall into the
"reactive/responsive" mode of living.
That is, instead of clearly deciding
what you want to do, you continually
react to what is happening around
you. Pretty soon, you lose all sense of
control. You feel that your life is running
you, rather than that you are running
On a regular basis, take stock of yourself
and what you are doing. You have
to stop the clock and do some serious
thinking about who you are and where
you are going. You have to evaluate
your activities in the light of what is
really important to you. You must master
your time instead of becoming a
slave to the constant flow of events and
demands on your time. And you must
organize your life to achieve balance,
harmony, and inner peace.
Sociologist Dr. Edward Banfield of
Harvard University wrote a book titled
The Unheavenly City, in which he
described one of the most profound
studies on success and priority setting
Banfield's goal was to find out how
and why some people became financially
independent during the course of
their working lifetime and others did
not. He started off convinced that the
answer to the question would be influential
contacts or some other concrete
factor. What he finally discovered was
that the major reason for success in life
was a particular attitude of mind.
Banfield called this attitude "long
time perspective." He said that men
and women who were the most successful
in life and the most likely to move
up economically were those who took
the future into consideration with every
decision they made in the present. He
found that the longer the period of time
a person took into consideration while planning and acting, the more likely it
was that he or she would achieve greatness
during his or her career.
The key to success in setting priorities
is having a long time perspective.
You can tell how important something
is today by measuring its potential
future impact on your life.
Economists say the inability to delay
gratification – that is, the natural tendency
of individuals to spend everything
they earn plus a little bit more,
and the mindset of doing what is fun,
easy, or enjoyable right now – is the primary
cause of economic and personal
failure in life. On the other hand, disciplining
yourself to do what you know
is right and important, although difficult,
is the high road to pride, selfesteem,
and personal satisfaction.
So setting priorities begins with
deciding what you want most in life
and then organizing your time and
activities so everything you do is the
most valuable use of your time in
achieving those objectives.
With your larger long-term priorities
in order, you can much more easily
decide upon your short-term priorities.
The process of setting short-term
priorities begins with a pad of paper
and a pen. Whenever you feel overwhelmed
by too many things to do and
too little time in which to do them, sit
down, take a deep breath, and list all
those tasks you need to accomplish.
Although there is never enough time
to do everything, there is always
enough time to do the most important
things, and to stay with them until
they are done right.
Peter Drucker once said, "Efficiency
is doing things right, but effectiveness
is doing the right things." And this
Once you have listed your tasks, ask
yourself this question: "If I were to be
called out of town for a month, and I
could finish only one thing on this list,
which one thing would it be?" Think
it through and circle that one item on
your list. Then ask yourself: "If I could
do only one more thing before I was
called out of town for a month, what
would it be?" This is the second thing
you circle on your list.
Perform this exercise five or six
times until you have sorted out the
highest priorities on your list. Then
number each priority according to its
importance. With these priorities, you
are now ready to begin working toward
the achievement of your major goals.
Once you can clearly see the one or
two things that you should be doing,
above all others, just say no to all
diversions and distractions and focus
single-mindedly on accomplishing
Much stress that people experience
in their work lives comes from working
on low-priority tasks. The amazing
thing is that as soon as you start working
on your highest-level activity, all
your stress disappears. You begin to
feel a continuous stream of energy and
enthusiasm. As you work toward the
completion of something that is really
important, you feel an increased sense
of personal value and inner satisfaction.
You experience a sensation of
self-mastery and self-control. You feel
calm, confident, and capable.
Here are six ideas that you can use,
every day, to help you set priorities
and keep you working at your best:
- Take the time to be clear about
your goals or objectives so that the priorities
you set are moving you in the
direction of something of value to you.
Remember that many people scramble
frantically to climb the ladder of success,
only to find that it is leaning
against the wrong building.
- Develop a long time perspective
and work on those things in the present
that can have the greatest positive
impact on your future. Maintain your
balance in life by setting priorities in
the areas of your health, your personal
relationships, and your financial goals.
- Make the commitment to improve
those aspects of your life that are most
important to you. If you're in sales,
learn how to be an excellent salesperson.
If you're a parent, learn how to be
an outstanding mother or father. The
power is always on the side of the person
with the best practical knowledge.
- Be sure to take the time to do your work right the first time. The fewer mistakes
you make, the less time you will
waste going back and doing it over.
- Remember, what counts is not the
amount of time that you put in overall;
rather it's the amount of time that you
spend working on high-priority tasks.
You will always be paid for the results
that you obtain, not merely the hours
that you spend on the job.
- Understand that the most important
factor in setting priorities is your
ability to make wise choices. You are
always free to choose to engage in one
activity or another, but once you have
chosen, you must accept the consequences
of your choice.
Resolve today to set clear priorities
in every area of your life, and always
choose the activities that will assure
you the greatest health, happiness, and
prosperity in the long term. The long
term comes soon enough, and every
sacrifice that you make today will be
rewarded with compound interest in
the great future that lies ahead for you.
In order to get your personal time
under control, you must decide very
clearly on your priorities, but at the
same time you must also establish "posteriorities" as well. Just as priorities
are things that you do more of
sooner, "posteriorities" are the things
that you do less of. It is just as important
to know what to focus on as it is to
know what not to focus on.
Some think that time management
is only a business tool, like a calculator
or cellular phone. It is something
that you use so that you can get more
done in a shorter period of time. In
reality, it is not a peripheral activity or
skill. It is a core skill upon which
everything else in life depends.
The fact is, your calendar is full. You
have no spare time. Every moment is
extremely valuable. Therefore, to do
anything new, you will have to stop
doing something old. In order to get
into something, you will have to get
out of something else. In order to pick
up something, you will have to put
something down. Before you make any
new commitment of your time, you
must firmly decide what activities you
are going to discontinue.
Time is your most precious resource.
It is the most valuable thing you have.
It is perishable, it is irreplaceable, and
it cannot be saved. It can only be reallocated
from activities of lower value
to activities of higher value. The very
act of taking a moment to think about
your time before you spend it will
begin to improve your personal time
Personal time management and
proper prioritization enables you to
choose what to do first, what to do second,
and what not to do at all. It
enables you to organize every aspect of
your life so that you can get the greatest
joy, happiness, and satisfaction out
of everything that you do.
Six Steps to Efficient Prioritizing
- Be clear
- Develop a
- Make the
- Take the
time to do it
- Always work
- Make wise
Brian Tracy is one of the world's leading authorities on personal and business success. His fast-moving talks and seminars on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness, and business strategy are loaded with powerful, proven ideas and strategies that people can immediately apply to get better results in every area.
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