One of the issues I have to deal with on a daily basis is task management. One my business advisers, Larry Warnick, had suggested this simple technique for prioritizing my tasks. Since no task management system is perfect, another of my business advisers, Hugh Ballou suggested another simple technique to handle this situation. I have combined these into a simple strategy that is easy to implement and effective.
It is based on qualifying tasks with just two tags - either important or urgent. Tasks can be neither, one or the other, or both. Thus, we have the Tasks Quadrant that you can use to quickly visualize this idea.
An urgent task is something that has to be done immediately. Interestingly enough, if they are not important, but just urgent, they should probably be delegated to someone else. Urgent only tasks include things like paying bills, getting supplies, or anything that has some dire consequences if not done now. It is best to organize these in a way so you don't have to personally do them. Set up automated processes or keep people on your team to take care of these tasks.
An important task is something that has a long term effect and is just one of many tasks associated with a single goal. These include things like tasks associated with buying a home or providing for your retirement. Tasks associated with these types of goals include ongoing research, finding representation, etc. If these tasks are important only and not urgent, then they are considered strategic tasks.
Now if a task is important and urgent, like making the meeting to close on the purchase of a home, this becomes a priority task. While these tasks can usually be planned in advance, occasionally we find ourselves in a position where one of these tasks have to be taken care of at an unscheduled time. For instance, if your close is rescheduled and you have to take care of it today instead of next week, you have to make time for this. This is a matter of task management.
Hugh Ballou professes leaving room in your daily schedule to deal with these types of situations. He focuses on goal setting and regular evaluation of your success and failure in achieving goals. I tend to see this as collecting statistics and then developing metrics to organize a regularly improved process. However you choose to view it, managing your tasks can be viewed as the most fundamental level as Task Prioritization.
So here's some food for thought: Organize your schedule to focus only on the Strategic Tasks, but leave room in your schedule for Priority Tasks that pop up due to unforeseen circumstances. As a business owner, it is very important to avoid tasks that are neither important or urgent. Most importantly, try to build in an infrastructure in your system where you can delegate all tasks that you can. In this way, you can have a much less stressful week and more productive life.
Note that if a task is neither important nor urgent, it is unnecessary and should be eliminated from your schedule. So many people get caught up in their friends problems and offer support and advice in extended phone calls or meetings. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless your it keeps you from reaching your goals.
Friendship is a matter of give an take. If you find relationships where you provide all the giving and there is no reciprication, you should probably evaluate the value of these relationships. Surround yourself with loving and giving people and your happiness will grow.
Most unnecessary tasks that take up our time are related to personal communications. Keeping track of your communications is one of the first steps to prioritizing them. So many people have issues in this regard, which can be solved by using a contact management system (CMS). The key needs of any CMS are the ability to add contacts, message them, keep notes on each, and set up a next date of contact for each. You should also track the time spent and determine if you are effectively using your time. There may be a way to accomplish the same result in less time, which will allow you to maintain more relationships.
I have found that the most effective communications consist of a phone call followed up with an email. Keeping your conversations on track and focused on a conversion is the key to building solid relationships. The conversion is usually a next contact date, which allows you to continue the development of the relationship, but don't forget the above lesson. Just keep to your guns and always be ready to move to your next contact. In the many cases where the conversation becomes less than productive, just move on to the next. Not everyone is a good fit for your circle of connections, so prioritize your relationships accordingly.
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