Modern work life is typically a struggle with too much – too much to do, too much information, too
many emails and follow-up. Learning better time management techniques is the go-to prescription for people who struggle with this situation. While improving your techniques in handling the deluge of information and requests is always a good idea, I often coach my clients to be extremely practical about this.
Admitting that you just can’t keep up with everything is often the only reasonable action. Did I hear you gasp? This is not a popular statement in modern corporate life. We think - and our company systems enforce this expectation – that we are expected to keep an empty in-box, turn in all our projects on time and with excellence, and respond to every request for our attention immediately. Many of my clients say that everything is urgent at their company.
In my executing coaching practice, inevitably the issue of time management comes up, as in “How do I keep up with all the competing priorities that are dumped on me and my group, respond to emails and phone calls in a timely manner and finish the projects I’m responsible for?” We can talk about Steven Covey’s urgency/importance matrix (below) and how you have to schedule time for “big rocks”, which are the important but not urgent tasks.
But how are you supposed to keep up with everything when you just simply can’t - or can’t unless you work 24/7? The answer is simple but not easy. It’s to prioritize what you are going to respond to and more importantly what you are going to ignore.
Here’s a matrix that I help my clients complete to identify what to prioritize and what to ignore:
As you read through this example matrix, note that the action for the medium priority people are given advance notice of slower response times. And, shockingly, that low priority requests are to be ignored. I often ask my clients, What high level executive do you know that responds to ALL of their emails and phone calls? I know that as a vendor to executives, most of my sales calls and emails are ignored, and I understand why. The executives know that they have to brutally prioritize how they spend their time in order to protect their sanity.
You too must protect your sanity. Create your priority matrix today and post it by your computer for easy viewing.
Kristin Robertson, CEO of Brio Leadership, is dedicated to increasing the number of employees who are excited to go to work on Monday mornings. Services include executive coaching, leadership development classes and company culture consulting. Don’t forget to get a copy of Kristin Robertson’s new book, Your Company Culture Ecosystem, available on Amazon.
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