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Each morning when the work day begins, you probably have the best intentions of what you are going to accomplish by 5 p.m. Yet even if you have a detailed to-do list, it can easily get lost in the shuffle when you are bombarded with emails, meetings and emergencies throughout the day.

One of the most important management skills is learning how to use your time most efficiently. To maximize your personal effectiveness, prioritize your tasks and determine which are most important and which can wait until a later date.

Prioritizing for Personal Effectiveness

1. Look at the big picture.

Small, immediate tasks can often take up valuable time that you should be spending working on long-term projects. Maintain a calendar that holds all of your upcoming deadlines and important events, and use it to determine how much time you should be spending on each project over time. Keep the calendar on your computer or in an accessible place near your desk, and review it at least once a day to stay updated.

2. Rank your to-do list.

If you are having a difficult time utilizing your time for maximum personal effectiveness, look at every item on your task list for the day and give it a number from 1 to 5 (1 being a low priority and 5 being a top priority). Tackle the #5 items first, and proceed in descending order. This exercise forces you to organize your work in order of importance, and with time, prioritization will become one of your inherent management skills.

3. Fight the distractions.

If you find yourself spending too much time working on non-immediate projects or getting sidetracked by emails, you may be unconsciously procrastinating on the real work you need to get done. Know when you need to give yourself space for quiet, independent work and when you need time for collaboration with colleagues. Learn how to delegate and how to say “no” to others when you are focusing on your top priorities.

4. Allow time for emergencies.

Even the best-laid plans must change at the last minute sometimes, so always allow yourself more time than you think you need. Pad meetings by 10 minutes in case they run late, give yourself an extra day for the printer to finish presentation materials and have a temp agency on speed dial in case your top employee calls in sick on an important day. Have a Plan B ready to address unforeseen circumstances, and you will be able to switch gears easily without derailing your productivity and personal effectiveness.

What tips do you use for prioritizing your schedule?


Learn more about the EDSI Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.

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