Master your daily time management with the 3 Priorities Tool

The big ideas:

  • High achievers have multiple demands on their time
  • Setting daily priorities and protecting the time keeps you focused
  • There is a simple, effective process to enable you to have impact every day

Are you finding that the day can slip away from you without you having an impact? There are so many competing demands for your time and when the new day starts there is always somebody who wants to cut across your plans.

This effective tool from Jason Selk and Tom Bartow (from the excellent book Organize Tomorrow Today) will ensure that you focus each day on the things that are going to make the biggest difference to you.

How to use this tool

Each night after work you write down your three priorities for the next day. By doing this the night before you are more likely to be able to identify the ‘important’ tasks rather than the ‘urgent’ ones, especially as somebody else’s ‘urgent’ task is likely to be waiting for you (in person or in your inbox) when you arrive to start the day.

Once you have your three then mark one of them as the ‘must do’ to get done on that day.  That is the one you must start off with. You have just marked it as the most important task in your life right now, so get on with executing on it (especially if it is one you are procrastinating on).

Example 1

  1. Draft a blog entry
  2. Source five new images for the website
  3. Read the new website copy and sign off\send for amendment – Priority task

Example 2

  1. Call three leads from the prospects list
  2. Review financials from last month
  3. 30 minutes of exercise – Priority task

Schedule in the time

This next point is critical. Before the week starts you have to schedule in regular protected time each day to do your 3 priority tasks or it won’t become an effective habit. Trying to ‘find’ the time on the day simply doesn’t work. We suggest you start with a 60 minute protected time slot and adjust it depending on what works best for you.

I strongly recommend first thing in the day, mine is from 07:30 to 08:30. So much good time is lost ‘settling into the day’ by checking e-mails and being distracted by early morning chatter. If you schedule it first thing then you get something important done straight away and that feeling sets you up with a positive frame of mind for the rest of the day.

You will be tempted to bounce this time when a competing demand comes in. Don’t. This ‘appointment with yourself’ is as important as a client meeting, you need to treat it as such or you’re always going to be on somebody else’s agenda.

When life gets in the way

There will still be odd times when there is an emergency that you have to deal with, something that justifiably drags you away from your priorities list.  In that circumstance there is one thing that you must do; make a start on your priority task.  Spending even 10 minutes on it, a time unit that everybody can find in their day regardless of emergencies, will mean that you have made a dent in the task.  Never leave the day without doing something on your most important task.  It positively reinforces the habit of the priorities list by making sure it is always part of your day.

Learn to say ‘no’

Finally, keep a note of your three priorities each day. If something is on that list for longer than 5 days then you’ve got to question how important it actually is. Be brave enough to say ‘no’ to the stuff that doesn’t matter, it will leave you more time for the important things that do.