Chapter 08. Setting clear priorities
Desires dictate our priorities,
priorities shape our choices,
and choices determine our actions. ― Dallin H. Oaks
I have studied time management for over 30 years,
read hundreds of books
and articles on the subject,
listened to countless audio programs,
and attended seminars.
With my accumulated knowledge,
I have written many best-selling time management books
around the world, produced audio
and video programs,
and organized time management seminars around the world.
I discovered something simple:
The meaning of time management
is to help you identify the most important task
you can do right now,
giving you the tools and techniques to get started.
Get started with the task immediately
and keep working on it until it’s done.
I explained the ABCDE method in the previous chapter.
It’s one of the most effective prioritization methods ever found.
There are also other techniques you can use to set priorities.
In 1895, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto concluded
that the 80/20 rule seems to hold true for money,
and the accumulation of wealth in all societies.
After years of research,
he discovered that 20% of individuals
and families he called the “important few” held 80% of all wealth
and property in Europe.
The 80/20 rule seems to apply
to almost every area of human life,
especially in jobs and responsibilities.
That means 20% of what you do will account
for 80% of the value you create.
Peter Drucker suggests that in practice,
prevalence is the “90/10 rule”.
There are times when 10% of the work
you do will account for 90% of the value.
As you start each day with a list of tasks and responsibilities,
before you start working, go through this list
and pick out the top 20%
that will make the greatest contribution to achieving your goals,
your most important goal.
If you have a list of 10 things to get done for the day,
2 of them will be worth more than all the others combined.
Your ability to clearly define those two things
and do them first will be crucial to your career success.
If you continually ask yourself,
‘What’s important now’
then you won’t waste time on the trivial. ― Lou Holtz
Put pressure on
Here’s another technique you can use to set priorities.
Make a daily to-do list and ask yourself,
“If I were to be sent out of town for a month from tomorrow,
which of the things on this list would
I want to be sure to complete before I go?”
The biggest enemy of personal performance
and time management today is “focusing on the little things”.
Since everyone tends to choose the path of least resistance
and be content with their comfort zone,
it is normal and natural for people to start each day with small,
easy tasks and activities easy,
interesting and often unimportant.
whatever you start doing at the beginning
of the day will quickly become a trend
that you will follow in the following hours.
By the end of the day,
you may realize that you’ve spent all your time on petty
and meaningless tasks,
and won’t achieve anything of real value.
Accomplish more important things
Another technique you can use is to imagine
that you go to work on Monday morning
and your boss announces a dilemma.
He just won a free vacation for two at a beautiful resort
with first class airfare.
The problem is that he is too busy to use this award,
but it is limited in time and needs to be used
by the next morning.
Your boss has made a deal:
if you can get all of your most important things done
by the end of Monday,
he’ll give you and your wife this wonderful,
If you received such a reward or incentive,
what would you do?
You will probably be amazed at the amount of work
you can accomplish in just that day.
You will probably complete the most important 20% of the tasks
that you have planned for the whole week.
With such an incentive,
you won’t waste a minute.
You won’t waste time gossiping with colleagues,
you’ll get to work early,
work through your breaks,
and focus your mind on clearing the backlog
by completing the most important tasks.
You will become one of the most productive people
in the office in no time.
This is a great exercise that you can use on your own.
This exercise illustrates the fact
that your performance largely depends on choice.
With enough momentum,
you’ll be amazed at your performance almost in minutes.
With enough motivation
you will almost immediately become
one of the most valuable people in the organization.
Law of number three
This is probably the principle that is worth the cost
and time you spend reading this book.
It is based on a strange finding my brand
after years of working with thousands of leaders
and business owners.
This principle says that no matter how many different things
you do in a week or a month,
there will be only 3 tasks and activities
that account for 90% of the value of your work.
If you make a list of all the things you do for a month,
it will probably include 20, 30,
or even 40 different tasks and responsibilities.
But if you scrutinize that list item by item,
you’ll find that only 3 items on the list account for 90%
of your contribution to the company.
How do you define this “key trio”?
Make a list of your duties and responsibilities
from the beginning of the month
to the end of the month and throughout the year.
Then answer these 3 magic questions:
1. If I could only do one thing on this list all day,
which activity would make the biggest contribution to my work?
The most important task
– the one that will make the greatest contribution
to your work will probably be clear to you from the list.
Often that will be quite obvious to you
as well as to those around you.
Please circle that item again.
2. If I could only do two of the things on this list all day,
what would be the second biggest contributor to my job?
Often this heading will also be very clear to you.
It may take a little more thought,
but it usually shows up soon enough.
3. If I could only do the three things on this list in an entire day,
what would be the third biggest contributor to my job?
As you analyze your responses,
it will become clear to you
that the only three things you do account for nearly all
of the value you create.
Starting and completing these tasks is more important
than all the other things you do.
There’s an important point:
if you don’t know the answers to these three questions,
you’re in serious trouble.
You are taking a great risk of wasting your time
and your life at work.
If you don’t know the answers to these magic questions,
you will always do things of little or no value.
If you don’t understand for any reason,
go see your boss.
Ask him what he thinks are the three most important things
you do that contribute the most to your job.
Ask your colleagues.
Ask your wife or husband.
But either way you must know the answers to these 3 questions.
Once you have a clear understanding of the “key triad”,
you must also help your employees understand their “key triad”.
There’s nothing you can do for your employees to be better
and more generous than giving them insight
into the most important things
they do that contribute the most to the company.
In a well-managed department or organization,
employees know exactly what the most important things
they can do to get the most out of it.
At the same time,
every employee needs to know what the other three key jobs are.
People need to always work independently
and in teams to accomplish those key tasks.
People with a tendency to “think fast” often respond
to the demands and pressures of the present moment.
They constantly deviate
from their highest priority tasks.
But this style is not for you.
Before you start working,
take the time to think slowly,
pick the most important task and start doing it
without worrying about other things.
When money realizes that it is in good hands,
it wants to stay and multiply in those hands. ― Idowu Koyenikan