A big part of generating your own success is knowing where to focus your effort and energy. What's the best and highest use of your time? A friend of mine Kevin Johnson, CEO of Ontrack International shared with me five simple steps to find, and then prioritize, your best and highest use of time.
The first step is to start by identifying your goals or priorities. Let's look at this through the lens of improving your performance at work, although these steps can be applied to any area of your life. If it's work related then it would makes sense to validate your goals or priorities with your boss. Ask your boss what he or she wants you to achieve in the next 90 days. This is a critical step because there may be some things your boss has in mind that are not yet on your radar. My partner John Brantley, who has helped me develop the Performance Coaching programs we deliver at Cannon Financial Institute, refers to this first step in our coaching process as Clarifying Expectations. Make certain that both you and your boss are on the same page as to what the expectations are.
The second step is then to take an inventory of all of the activities in which you could engage. Consider how you have spent the last 30 or 60 days. What exactly are you doing with your time? Don't get too granular with how you inventory these activities. A smaller list will be easier to work with than a list of 60 or 70 discrete activities. Organize these activities into a matrix and compare them to the goals you have identified. This is will help you find your "high impact" activities. To do this create a table. List the goals across the top of the table. These will become "column headers." Then list the activities down the right hand side of the page. Now for each "cell" where the activity (row) intersects with a goal, rank the impact of that activity against the goal or priority. Is it high, medium or low in its impact? Do this for each activity.
The third step is to study the completed activity impact matrix and identify those activities that are likely to have the most impact on your goals. You are looking for those activities that have impact across multiple goals or priorities.
The fourth step is analyze how much of your time you actually spend on these high impact activities that you have identified. If you are like most people you will be surprised to learn that you are probably spending 20% or less of your time on the activities that count the most.
The fifth step is take charge. Time management is really about choice management. Spend one hour each week planning. Make the right right choice about where and how you spend your time and you will be certain to realize significant performance improvement.