By Phil Cheesman
I spoke recently about managing our tasks to make better use of our time. I also observed that the best task managers have good habits which we can follow as processes initially to embed them into our own habits. So what do these naturally gifted task managers do?
You can break their good habits down into 4 steps:
Step 1: They analyse the situation in which potential actions arise – what are the options? Which ones best fit their strategy?
Step 2: Having selected which tasks they are going to perform, they prioritise each one based on its importance and its urgency. Many of us confuse importance with the size of the task. Small tasks can be just as important as large tasks – especially if the successful completion of other tasks depends on them. Urgency depends on timing and deadlines – a less important task can still be urgent if it can only be done in a certain window of opportunity. Making sense of all this becomes a lot easier when step 3 is applied.
Step 3: Planning when they are going to do each task makes the best task managers efficient in the use of their time. Planning also allows them to see the relationships between tasks and so to order them for best effect. Good planners use their calendars/schedules/diaries to make sure that their plans are realistic, thereby avoiding overcommitment. Poor planners often overcommit themselves, failing to get things done on time or even at all which does little for their reputation or self-esteem.
Step 4: Even good planners can fall down at the action stage. Some of us see our diaries as records of what we thought we might do at certain times but they bear little relationship to what actually happens. This is why some people see planning as a waste of time – it's not, it's our failure to carry out the plan that's at fault. The best task managers do what their diaries said they would do, when they said they would do it. They are not afraid to say no to interruptions, diversions or displacement activities and they are good at holding themselves accountable for getting things done.
Many of us mere mortals find this last bit the hardest to do because we are much more comfortable with letting ourselves down than other people. We can turn this to our advantage by joining peer groups to whom we make ourselves accountable for our actions. Well facilitated mastermind groups have proved to be excellent in this respect – see the discussion What's So Good About Mastermind Groups? for the evidence.
Phil Cheesman has used his 4Words Business Improvement System to help many small-to-medium sized companies to recognize their potential and grow substantially.