Your Priorities: Key to Successful Time Management

The term “Time Management” is not a new concept to anyone in the business world but a thorough understanding of this management process and core knowledge area has been taken for granted by many people. It is important to stress that the prime significance of time management is to affect output of products or services. The purpose of time management is to achieve a level of conscious choice in unconscious decisions. Much emphasis will not be placed on time management here but a reference to an aspect of time management that is referred to as prioritization.

“Time is the scarcest resource of the Manager; if it is not managed nothing else can be managed” Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005).


Every one of us whether in our personal or in our professional lives is constantly faced with one activity or the other during the course of the day. An activity can be important, not important, urgent, not urgent, effective, non-effective, efficient and non-efficient. An activity as defined in the dictionary is something you do, an activity is when you are in a state of doing, activity is energetic action or single and focused action that you do.

Workplace project management is the lowest possible element of the work break down structure (WBS). WBS is a sub-division of project deliverable and work into smaller more manageable components referred to as work packages. Each stage of the WBS is referred to as Task. When a work package is further decomposed, you end up with activities which can then be incorporated in the project schedule. In the context of project management, an activity is the constituent parts of a task.

Many a time, your activity is not tailored to the achievement of a value that is, getting busy without tangible result as well as working to achieve little result. This phenomenon is often termed activity trap. “Most things which are urgent are not important and most things which are important are not urgent” Dwight D. Eisenhower. Based on his matrix he developed four quadrants called importance – urgency matrix.
Quadrant I : urgent and important, deadline driven and result to stress.
Quadrant II: not urgent and important, aids preparation, relationship building and result in value.
Quadrant III: not important and urgent, popular activities, characterized with interruptions and result in deception.
Quadrant IV : not important and not urgent, timewasters and this type of activity result in regret.

Tasks and Performance

When you are faced with any task – a series of daily, weekly actions required to meet your objectives or those activities within the work breakdown structure, the proper approach in tackling such a task is to establish a goal. A goal is the purpose to which you direct your effort, while you bear in mind that your goal has to be specific, measurable and motivating. A task can be completed in an efficient way. To be efficient can mean your ability to achieve effective results, in other words, the act of doing things right even though the substance of the task might be wrong. For example, if you have been asked to produce a floor plan instead, you mistakenly presented a well prepared and accurate building elevation drawing. You are efficient with what you produced even though the task was wrong. By the same token, you are not effective. To be effective means doing the right thing to meet a particular purpose and quality.

Remember that efficiency does not translate to mean effectiveness as demonstrated above. However, effectiveness is a function of time management and priority management.

Priority and Focus

One of the challenges faced by many people when given a task to perform is how to maintain a balance between working hard and working smart. Working smart in this context do not mean laziness or a way of neglecting what has to be done but in contrary it refers to your ability to remain focused with your established goal.

You are constantly supplied with tons of information on a daily basis from different sources. By randomly accessing these pieces of information you can create a tendency to lose your focus. You actually need several ways to aid your goal to achieve and maintain your focus. The options at your disposal can include identification of intended values, setting of goals and engage planning on daily or weekly basis.

Focusing on your activities help you achieve your highest priority. What is priority? Priority is a value based assignment of relative importance to your tasks or activities. Apart from your focus another important factor to consider is your attention. Your attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of something while ignoring other things.

Prioritization of task cannot be easily achieved without certain qualities which include but not limited to: purpose, clarity and resourcefulness. Your purpose defines the fundamental principle to your priority, clarity facilitates your purpose to become operational while resourcefulness enables you to create, imagine possibilities where they seem to be absent.

When you match your priorities with the right tasks, the outcome is efficiency and effectiveness of work combined together thus resulting in high productivity with less effort.

“When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities you have a credible claim to inner peace” Hyrum Smith. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least” Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe.

In general, it is important to note that demand for your time and attention reduces your clarity and focus. Therefore, value should be placed on your time and you should be able to discern on what is important and not urgent in order to be on top of your job in a stress free and pressure free atmosphere. With prioritization, less of your effort is expended to achieve a high output.

I will leave you with Murphy’s law. “Everything takes longer than expected”


Olajide Ageh