Busy Pond

Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
As a new guest author to lifehack.org and an experienced productivity consultant I would like to start by naming and dispelling common productivity and organizing myths. This series will be posted each Wednesday until we cover the top 10.

Myth: You don’t have time to prioritize because you’re so busy doing the things that you’re responsible to do.

Reality: You don’t have time not to prioritize because you’re busy, responsible, and want a good balance.

I call it CEO time – as in Chief Executive Officer meeting time.
When someone has a meeting with the CEO they show up don’t they? (Distractions and postponements never come from the one invited to meet with the CEO)
Everyone shows up on time for CEO meetings don’t they?
If you were meeting with the CEO you’d be prepared, too, right?.

You are the CEO of your career & life so you should have your own CEO meeting weekly. During that meeting with yourself be sure you’re doing the right things and prepare for the coming week. Schedule your CEO meeting and honor it as the most important meeting of the week.

Given that you are really busy how do you know that you’re doing the right things? Do you know precisely what you’re responsible to do? Do you consider work and outside work when you think of your responsibilities? Even more poignantly, does anyone complain about how you spend your time? Does your spouse grumble about not seeing you? Do your kids protest about having a baby sitter again?

This is a reality check – not to make anyone feel guilty. If it makes you uncomfortable, however, thank you for staying with me.

During your CEO meetings list the things you are actually responsible for accomplishing – the big picture things. This is for your professional as well as personal life. A list of responsibilities would easily be 20-30 long and related to job and home. The list would include the things that show up on an annual job evaluation and family ‘serious discussions’ list. This list will be the touchstone to determining if one is doing ‘the right things’. Somethings you are involved with might be fun, educational, and valuable for building relationships but not really the core of your priorities.

For example, Marty is a busy executive with an international software firm. He has a couple of kids and has been married 20 years. Although his job responsibilities change every 18-24 months, it is clear what he needs to accomplish. It’s written in his job description and measured. Coincidently he’s given a cash bonus for meeting those responsibilities. At home he and Marsha have job descriptions, too. They came out of a playful ‘what’s my line’ conversation. They include taking care of the kids, taking care of each other, and taking care of themselves.

Marty has scheduled his CEO meetings Friday afternoon at 1pm. This meeting is rarely missed. Marty isolates himself sometime by working at home, sometime by working in a meeting room at the corporate offices, and sometime he is in his cube and hangs a ‘do not disturb’ sign for the 1-2 hours it takes for the meeting.

During the meeting Marty pulls out his list and runs down it to make his own review of his progress toward goals, completion of projects, and use of his time. He decides what things need to be wrapped up before the end of the day and writes a list of actions for the upcoming weekend with his family and week back at work. Marty has a clearly charted course and continues to be a success as a father, mate, and employee.

Previous Myths:

Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be able to leave the country for months at a time. She’s the author at ProductivityCafe and she consults with professionals on their productivity.

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