This week I was teaching a class on life and time management, where I spent time talking with participants about the difference between time management and priority management.

The difference between time management and priority management

  • Time management involves SCHEDULING – deciding WHEN to do something.
  • Priority management involves VALIDATING – deciding WHETHER to do something. 

The reason for making this distinction boils down to some famous words of advice:

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

                                                                                    —Stephen R. Covey

Schedule your priorities

We often jump straight into scheduling the things on our plate, without even determining whether we SHOULD be working on them in the first place.  One of the best ways to ensure you’re clear on what your priorities are is to periodically check in with your line manager and simply ask.  This may seem obvious, but just because something is common sense doesn’t mean its common practice!  Research has found that managers and their direct reports often:

  • Do not agree on 25% of responsibilities
  • Disagree 50% of time on what problems exist and which to solve.
  • Disagree up to 90% of time on what needs changing or improving.

Manage up – take the lead to align with your supervisor

Amazing, right?  But the bottom line is we live in a fast-paced environment, where priorities are constantly in flux.  You’ve got to do the necessary work to constantly manage up, otherwise you may inadvertently be creating problems for yourself.

So here’s a little homework assignment to do:

  1. List 10 most important functions of your position.
  2. Rank them in order of importance.
  3. How much time do you spend each day or week toward these top 10?
  4. Ask your supervisor to do the same.
  5. Meet and discuss.

Chances are you may be surprised what you find out!

Once you’re clear on what your priorities are, the Ivy Lee Method for scheduling is a quick and easy way to schedule them.

The Ivy Lee Method on How to Schedule

  1. At the end of each day, write the 6 most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than 6 tasks.
  2. Prioritize those 6 items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of 6 tasks for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

Coaching questions for thought:

  • Which of the above productivity suggestions on how to schedule are you routinely doing? 
  • Which could you start?  What impact would this have on your team?

Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

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