Setting and Following Your Priorities

Successful people have learned how to spend their time and effort in the most efficient and productive manner. To do this they have learned what effort is most productive.

Management expert Joseph M. Juran named a principle about how we spend our time after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto had discovered that 20% of the people in Italy earned 80% of the national income. He called this the 80/20 rule. Juran applied the same analysis to effort – finding that we generally spend about 20% of our time in the most productive activity which generates about 80% of our income.

Applying this more generally, focusing most of your time and effort on the 20% of your priorities that are most productive will generate an 80% return.

When determining your priorities ask yourself some basic questions:

1. What must I do – that is, what am I required to do by my boss, etc?

2. What is consistent with my definite goal or goals in life?

3. What gives me the greatest return on my effort?

4. What is both urgent and important?

5. What is important but not necessarily urgent?
Item 5, by the way, are the things that we tend to neglect the most. Stephen Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, stresses the importance of spending time on that which is important but not urgent. These things will pay off in the long run far more than many of the things that seem urgent but are not important. A great skill in time management is distinguishing between the important and the unimportant among all the urgent and devoting your time first to the important.

Priorities are not permanent. They can shift weekly, daily and even by the hour depending on what is changing and happening in your life. When you wife goes into labor for example that becomes number one in importance and urgency regardless of what was competing for time prior to that. (Of course if you are the woman going into labor you will not need that clarification.)

It is important therefore to take some time each day and each week to review your tasks and priorities and make sure you are adjusting how you devote your time to match the needs and priorities you are facing now, as opposed to what may have been the order last week or last month.

After you complete this assessment of what is important and urgent then plan you day accordingly. Make sure you follow your plan. When things interrupt try to delegate them or put them off until you accomplish what you planned to do.

At the end of the day spend some time looking at what you accomplished, at how well you stuck to your plan or when it was necessary to deviate and why, and how you might do that better in the future. Then look at those priorities again and begin planning tomorrow.

The degree of detail in your planning depends on what works best for you, on the nature of your day and the demands upon it. You must determine what works best.

Setting good priorities that make the best use of your time and effort is a skill that takes practice, constant adjustments and learning. Over time you will become better at it and your time will be more effectively spent.

Wishing you success and prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy
Helping People Learn to Build Wealth

Wishing you Success and Prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.