In the first article of this series, I talked about a few mental shifts you need to make for a time management program to be successful. Once your head’s in the game, the next thing that you need to do is to figure out what drives you. This will help you be able to set and prioritize goals.
So I’m going to walk you through a couple of different techniques that help you determine your underlying values and motivators.
First, we are going to look at your values as well as what you want to accomplish in your life. Then we need to understand why these things drive you and why you want to accomplish them. We will also look at ways to determine the urgency and importance of different tasks, and ultimately begin to ensure that all of your goals are SMART goals.
There is a lot of information in this post, so to help you out, I’ve created a three-part worksheet. So make sure you print this out and fill it in as you go through this article. It will help you start to implement the different ideas as we go through them and give you a solid plan of action!
Prioritizing Those Things Most Important to You
In order to successfully manage your time, you need to know how to prioritize your tasks. And one way to do this is to look internally.
Let’s consider an example. In one day, you want to be able to finish writing an article for publication, take your daughter to soccer practice, and write an outline for your new book. But you only have time to complete two of these tasks in. How do you decide which to do?
One way to decide is to use the Franklin System. First, you need to determine what your governing values are. Then, consider your long-term goals, then your intermediate goals, and then plan your day-to-day tasks.
So, let’s say your governing values are your family and earned respect in your career, and your long-term goal is to have a published book. You would want to prioritize your time with these two in mind: taking your daughter to soccer practice and outlining your book. But, if your long-term goal is to be published in an academic journal, you would want to spend the time on the article instead.
A problem arises if your long-range goals include both publishing a book and an article. In this case, you would need to dive deeper and consider which of these two would earn you more respect in your career (since that is something you value). Knowing which of these your colleagues would find more reputable would allow you to prioritize that as your intermediate goal, then.
So grab the worksheet that I gave you and start writing down what your governing values are. From there, determine what some of your long-term goals are—what you ultimately want to accomplish in your life. Then, consider what your intermediate goals would be. This will then tell you what should be on your daily to-do list. If you aren’t quite sure what to put there, leave it blank for now because we have a lot more to get to.
Consider the Why
There’s an exercise that I like to have people complete to evaluate their different goals and governing values. Take out a piece of paper or open a document on your computer. Now, start writing all of the different goals that you have. Write down every single thing that comes to your mind. This is a brain dump—I want you to get everything out and onto paper. Don’t limit yourself to the space on the worksheet I gave you. We’ll come back to that.
Once this is done, take a look at your list. I’m sure you’re aware, on one level or another, what all of your different goals are. But it’s good to see them all written out in front of you.
Now, I want you to write down next to each goal why that’s a goal. Why is it important that you accomplish it? In other words, what is motivating you to accomplish that goal? Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say that on my list of goals that I just wrote out, I have a goal that says, “Write 3 blog posts a week.” Next to that I could write, “To increase traffic on my blog.” But that’s not really why it’s important to me. Instead, I should write something like, “To improve my writing skills.” That’s more personal. It’s saying that I want to do it for personal development. That I value being a better writer. But I want you to take it a little deeper. I could combine these two answers, and then add what the result could personally mean for me. So my answer could be, “To increase traffic on my blog and become a better writer so that my business grows, I can provide for my family, and make my son proud.” Now that is a governing value. That is a real reason motivating me to try to achieve that goal.
So go through your list of goals that you wrote down, and figure out the reason it’s on that list. Once you have your different motivators, or governing values, clearly defined, it’s easier to prioritize your goals.
If the sole purpose of a goal is to increase traffic to my blog, that goal would be prioritized a lot further down on the list than a goal that is intended to provide for my family. This exercise allows you to see how they are all aligned clearly.
Now, take a second to make sure your goal has a verb in it. I want this to be actionable. It shouldn’t just say “3 blog posts.” It should say “write 3 blog posts.” On the worksheet I provided, jot down your top 4 actionable goals. And then put the why next to it. This allows you to clearly see what you need to do, and why you need to get it done.
If you left the top two lines of your pyramid blank, you may be able to fill them in now. But hold on, we’re going to take it a step further.
Important and Urgent
Another way to determine how to prioritize your tasks is to consider whether they are important and whether they are urgent.
There are four different types of tasks. Those that are important and urgent, those that are urgent but not important, those that are important but not urgent, and those that are neither important nor urgent.
The things that are both important and urgent are time sensitive and relevant to your ultimate goals. This could be meeting a deadline to submit an article in a journal that could make or break your career. It is time sensitive because there’s a deadline, and it’s also relevant to your ultimate goals.
Things that are important but not urgent are those things that are usually pushed aside and easily forgotten. These are the things that we need to schedule into our calendars, so they aren’t forgotten. This could be the same as the example above, only there’s no deadline to submit. So it isn’t time sensitive that you get the article in, but it’s important to your career and ultimate goals that you do. So you need to get it done.
Another example of this could be family time. While it’s extremely important, people generally let it be pushed aside for another day or another time. You have to make a conscious decision to make time for it.
Then there are things that are urgent but not important. These are usually the little fires that you are putting out throughout the day that eat up all your time. A client calls unhappy about something that could easily wait for another day, but he demands to talk to you now. These are the things that you need to set boundaries for and learn to say no to. And to let someone else handle them if you can.
And finally, there are those things that are neither important nor urgent. Watching TV. Playing video games. The stuff that has no importance in your life and there’s no urgency to get it done. And while this stuff definitely has a place (we all need a break from time to time), it definitely needs to be kept within limits.
Now look back at your worksheet. Are the things that you put toward the top of your pyramid important? Double check to make sure they are.
Okay, so we now have a pretty solid understanding of how to set and prioritize goals. But there’s one final check I want you to run. And it’s a very important one.
Now you need to make sure that the goals you are setting for yourself are SMART goals. This is a system from the Peter Drucker school of thought.
Basically, any goals you set should meet five different criteria:
S – specific, M – measurable, A – achievable, R – relevant, T – timely.
First, the goal should be specific. Don’t say that you will write a book. Say that you will write 5000 words a day. Or that you will complete one chapter a week. Be specific with what you are going to do.
Next, it needs to be measurable. The above examples also fall into this category. By specifically saying that you will write 5000 words a day or a chapter a week, you can measure your progress.
The goal also needs to be achievable. If you know that there is no way you will be able to write 5000 words a day, then don’t set that as your goal. Only you know your capabilities, so make sure the goals you set can actually be achieved.
It also needs to be relevant. If you want to write a book, your goal shouldn’t be to learn French. Unless that’s what your book is on.
And finally, you need to have a time limit set. This is why I said 5000 words a day or a chapter a week. Because this gives you a deadline. If I were just to say that I’m going to write 5000 words, then I’m not going to feel driven to get it done today. I may subconsciously put it off to tomorrow, and then the next day, and so on.
So if the goals on your worksheet aren’t SMART, revisit them. See if you can adjust them so that they are. Or scratch them all together for something better. Just make sure that they are based on your values and what you want to achieve in your life. And that they are important.
Once you have actionable goals to prioritize, they should be the first things that get scheduled into your day. And we will be going over some of the best ways to do that in the weeks to come.
So how do you feel? I know this was a lot of information to consume, but every point I made in this article will help you set yourself up for success.
In case you missed the amazing worksheet I made for you, make sure you grab that now! I want the information I provided in the article to propel you forward, and this worksheet is the first step in making sure that happens!
I would love to know if you had any ah-ha moments while reading this! Drop them in the comments below!
And don’t forget, sharing is caring. Send this over to someone who could use some help figuring out which tasks they need to work on first!
Stay tuned for next week’s article, where we will look at how different work styles, energy times, and even personalities all determine the type of time management program that will work the best! I can’t wait to see you then!