I try not to manage time. Instead I manage priorities.
The problem with time management is you end up managing time. What you really want to do is focus on priorities.
Personally I think there’s a bit too much focus on how much we’re crushing, what we’re shipping, how much hustle we have. I think we should be focused on how we’re living, what we’re creating, and what we’re contributing.
There is an understandable obsession with productivity. We all seem to have an ever growing number of things that we have to do. We manage our time because we believe that we can reach the promise that better productivity should provide — that we will work less, and achieve more. But it doesn’t seem to happen.
I think a much better strategy is to manage priorities, and allocate time to higher priority stuff. This is a notion that I’m refining, and that Zig, in large part, is built on.
Take Stock of What Matters
In all aspects of life you are accountable to what matters. This can be a business outlook, or a personal choice, but understanding what matters to you, your company, or your customers allows you to establish priorities.
As an example, when I ran a creative agency we listed out four types of goals for every contract:
- Our clients business goals: higher conversions, easier sales training, more brand awareness, or whatever else they might want.
- Our clients personal goals: what do they, as individuals have riding on this project?
- Our financial goals: what we needed to make in order for the project to be profitable.
- Our business goals: where could this project lead in terms of future opportunities.
Every decision we made on the project, from design and engineering, to management and communication, was evaluated against these goals.
Being honest about goals can help you prioritize with context. It keeps you on track, keeps you accountable, and separates the things that don’t matter from the things that do.
Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
This, for me, is hard. I’m a curious person, and a bit of a dilettante. I like to dabble. I even spend time on things I hate simply to figure them out.
For those who don’t know this old chestnut it basically comes down to this — 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. Find the activities that get the best results and focus on those things and you’ll be more efficient.
Focus on High Value Time
Don’t get bogged down in administration, outsource when you can, allocate, automate, and spend time on those activities that provide the most value.
High value time could be that which offers a higher billing rate, that drives the most value to your product or company, or that offers the most value to you personally or spritually.
This applies to every part of your life, from your relationships, to your work, to your health and well being.
Do the Things That Need Doing
We put a lot of value on innovation, and probably not enough of maintenance. We give a lot of attention to things we enjoy, and probably not enough to things we might not like, but need to do.
Sometimes we need to do things that are not glamorous, or easy, or enjoyable. Lack of action on vital drudgery can often create a much bigger problem down the road.
When you look at the list of things you need to accomplish, organize it using two criteria: how important it is, and when it needs to be done.
Zig basically does this for you. You can mix personal stuff in with work, and it will gently nag you to deal with it all. We make no distinction between getting work done, going for a hike, or calling your Dad. If it’s important enough to write down, it’s important enough to deal with. Over time this mix of big and small accomplishments, building up every day, can make a big difference in your work and your life.