Where Are Your Priorities? How to Manage Your Time at Work
Planning means to set priorities. As a manager, your top priority in planning the work of your team is to, well, set the priorities of your team. It is your responsibility to determine and communicate those priorities that will best reach your company’s goals and manage your time wisely.
Manage Your Time by Setting Priorities
Here’s a fun activity that will illustrate the importance of properly setting priorities and help you manage your time. I call it the Priorities Worksheet. It is a four-box model with two key elements. Across the top axis you see the word “Urgent,” with both a high and low rating. The vertical axis is the word “Important,” also with a high and low rating.
Rank order from #1-#4 which box you would do first, second, third, then fourth at work. Write your answer for that box on the line provided within that box. Then brainstorm 2-3 activities that fall within each of the four boxes.
Analysis of Priorities Box
Let’s first look at the proper rank order. Like most managers, you probably ranked the upper left-hand box, the one that is both important and urgent, as your #1. That’s correct. If something is both important and urgent, you better spend time on it right away.
Likewise, you probably ranked the lower right-hand box, that one that is not important or urgent, as your #4. If so, again you’re right. If something is neither important nor urgent, you should not be spending time on it.
The challenge then becomes which do you rank as #2: the upper-right hand box that is important but not urgent, or the lower left-hand box that is urgent but not important?
Most managers rank the urgent but not important box as #2. The reasons usually include that whatever the activity, it is urgent that it be done, it is a time-sensitive item, or that it needs to be completed before moving into the upper-right hand box of something important but not urgent. If you ranked the lower-left hand box as your #2, you’re wrong. Here’s why:
By placing urgency ahead of importance, you have just elevated the clock over the priority. Now all I would have to do as your boss or colleague is place a fast deadline on what I want you to do and you will do it, regardless of how important it is.
Here’s the proper rank ordering for each box.
Where Do You Live?
Box #1: Important and Urgent: Reactive Managers
These managers tend to see everything as an emergency. Always in a perpetual state of stress, they tend to spread the stress to others.
Box #2: Important and Not Urgent: 24/7 Managers
Box #2 managers are more proactive. They always shift maximum time and resources toward important priorities—not just urgent items. Since they allow themselves the freedom to plan and set priorities, these managers can more easily see potential roadblocks and future opportunities for productivity. With less items in Box #1, they are far less stressed out and so are the people around them.
Box #3: Urgent and Not Important: Clock Managers
These managers fill their calendars with time-sensitive activities with little regard for the really important stuff. They fool themselves into thinking that activity equals productivity.
Box #4: Not Urgent and Not Important: Fired Managers
Mangers who live here are quickly demoted or replaced.
4 Everyday Steps to Manage Your Time
- Schedule a block of time every day—that’s every single day—for planning and nothing but planning and stick to it!
- Effectively delegate career-enriching tasks to your staff.
- Discuss with your boss how best to shift low essentials to other employees.
- Decide TODAY to set priorities in all you do—for today, tomorrow, next week and even into next year.
Discover the Six Skills Every Manager Must Master
From problem solving to motivating, Management 24/7 teaches a simple model that you can apply today.
- Solve real problems … and forget the rest.
- Separate what’s important from what’s urgent for you and your team.
- Implement the four steps of delegation … and give yourself more free time.