Decide what’s important, then do it

Who doesn’t struggle with time management?  Our days seem to move at lightning speed, driven by technology, forces in the workplace, or a personal drive for achievement. Is it even possible to decrease stress and increase ease in managing time?

Hundreds of books have been written about time management, and the basics boil down to this:  Decide what’s important, then do it.

Let’s decode that sentence into four key components or steps–”what’s important,” “decide,” “then,” and “do it.” These steps can help you plan your day, execute the tasks on your to do list, then feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

What’s important:  This step requires clarity and discernment.  What are your lifetime goals?  Not necessarily what’s urgently staring you in the face, but what’s truly important and deserving of your attention.  Your daily to do list can include tasks with urgency, but please don’t leave out the activities that will bring you closer to your dreams and to longer-term satisfaction in life.

Decide:  Consider the array of important activities, and make decisions about which to tackle.  To decide is to be definitive and not get lost in the options.  Commit to what you will do, prioritize, and determine what can wait until another day.  Jump off the fence of ambivalence and decide.

Then:  This word introduces the sense of timing and sequencing.  Do the decision-making first, then take the action.  So often we leap into frenzied activity before choosing what’s important; that’s the “ready-fire-aim” syndrome.  Instead, wait to act until you’re clear about the target.

Do it:  Seems simple enough, huh?  Yet for many of us, this is where we go awry.  Procrastination is often to blame.  Or distractions, interruptions, second-guessing yourself, and other demons that inhibit action.  If you’ve gone through the previous steps, then it’s time to do what you’ve decided to do!

There are plenty more tools and techniques that can be employed for good time management, and we’ll discuss many of them in this blog.  A recent post, for example, covered the “Five Minute Solution,” a technique for overcoming procrastination and chipping away at tasks that seem overwhelming.

If you only remember one thing about time management, though, let it be this: Decide what’s important, then do it.

To your ease!

Pat Daniel, Ph.D.

© Pat Daniel and, 2011.
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