A busy professional has this question regarding time management:

How to set the right priorities?

I have a lot on my to-do list and I tend to focus on the day to day tasks I have. I am finding it hard to find time to focus on some of my strategic goals because the rest of my to-do items take up all of my time. I am thinking I need to do a better job at setting priorities. How do others tackle their strategic goals while getting all of their pressing daily tasks done?

Every successful person will have their own system.  And I believe that the best system is the one that works best for you. Having said that upfront, here is what I recommend.

Start with the end in mind

I applaud you for having your strategic goals clearly defined.  Often people go through life without a strategic plan for their personal, professional, social and career lives.  It is these same folks that wonder where time has gone and why they haven’t accomplished more with the time they were given.

Outlining a simple mission statement for your personal, professional, social and career purpose will help keep you on track.  After all, how can you stay on course if you haven’t plotted a destination?  If you don’t know where you are going, you deserve anywhere you end up.

So – get a 360° mission statement which includes all significant aspects of your life.

Outline your imperatives

Once you have your 360° mission statement, carve out the imperative things that need to be accomplished to support those statements. Imperatives are those things that – if everything else were to disappear from your live – your life would still be happy and fulfilled.

For instance, perhaps one of your personal mission statements/desires is to be closer to your family and increase quality time with them.  You then realize that your family is an imperative.  That’s something that – if everything else were to disappear – you would still be very happy.

So you now have prioritized your family as one of your imperatives.

Some other imperatives might be your health, working on things that you are passionate about, getting great satisfaction by helping others or the community, be recognized and accomplished in your career – whatever creates joy in you.  Nothing is wrong – it’s just your individual imperative list.

Create supportive tasks

Once you have your imperative list, create realistic actions/activities to accomplish those goals. Create them in the form of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

For example: To accomplish getting closer to your family, commit to a block of time each week for quality time with family members (sans electronics and distractions).

To be recognized and accomplished in your career, commit to working with a mentor or business coach to identify your career road-map and subsequent skill gaps.

To give back, commit to volunteer your talents to a non-profit organization.  I would also recommend volunteer to a position that also supports and enhances your career.  For instance, if you wanted to improve your skill set in web-design, offer to design the website for a non-profit.  Combining the two imperatives will be of greater benefit to you.

Schedule the time

Once you have your SMART goals identified, take out your calendar and block the time out in your calendar.  Treat these assignments as imperative, and allow the day-to-day activities fill the gaps around them (instead of the other way around).

Bottom line:

Every day activities will always fill in the gaps.  So, if you don’t deliberately and mindfully create the space (schedule it in your calendar with a “DO NOT DISTURB”), you will never have the time to accomplish your most important activities.

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