Does Your Time Allocation Match Your Priorities?

Does the way you use your time match your priorities?

It’s a simple question, but it’s essential. Many people say that something is important to them, but the way they use their time says otherwise. There is a mismatch between their time allocation and their priorities.

I was reminded of it when I read Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen. In that book, the author emphasizes the importance of aligning how you use your time with your priorities. Clayton Christensen also says something similar in How Will You Measure Your Life.

The fact is, there are many things that could distract you from your priorities. If you are not careful, you could spend so much time on trivial things that you make only a little progress on your priorities.

I’m still learning to handle this myself, but from what I’ve learned, here are some steps you should take to match your time allocation with your priorities:

1. Know your priorities.

Before anything else, you must know what your priorities are. First, they should consist of your long-term goals. In addition, they should include maintaining your life balance (more on that below).

2. Track how you use your time.

People often don’t realize how much money they spend on something until they track their expenses. Similarly, you might not realize how you use your time until you track it.

There are many ways to do it. Jim Collins, for instance, uses a timer to track how much time he spends on different areas of his life.

In my case, I use a timer to track how much time I spend on my priorities. I track only the time spent solely on my priorities. Whenever I get distracted, I stop the timer. I track the time in 30-minute “blocks,” and record how many blocks I have each day. This is how I realized how badly I used my time.

Track your time usage. Then you will be able to see your real situation.

3. Eliminate or delegate.

If you find you need to allocate more time for your priorities, there are two things you should do:

  1. Eliminate. Say no to non-essential things. As Rick Warren once said, you should say “no” to good opportunities so that you can say “yes” to the great ones.
  2. Delegate. For things that you still need to do, try to get someone else to do them. You can use outsourcing web sites such Fiverr for this.

These two strategies will help you free up time for your priorities.

4. Maintain life balance.

Don’t forget that you should always keep your life balanced. For instance, don’t eliminate your social life to free up time for your career priorities. There are five aspects of life, and they must all be in balance.

5. Stay alert.

Matching your time allocation with your priorities is an on-going process. It’s not something you can do just once and be done with.

So stay alert. My suggestion is to keep tracking your time so that you know if you get off track. You can then take the necessary action to get back on track.

***

Using the steps above, you can match the way you use your time with your priorities. Your life will become effective and productive.

#####

As you might know, I’m a big proponent of having side projects, and my current side project is game development.

I’m happy to announce I have just launched my first iOS game! It’s a simple game, but I think it’s fun to play. Check it out here.

Photo by Markus Spiske

15 Comments

  1. Good points, Donald. I identify with all of your points.

    With the end of the year approaching, and the start of a new one being just around the corner, I’m again looking at my long term goals, and where I need to ‘eliminate’ or ‘delegate’.

    A very helpful reminder, thanks!

  2. I agree with the philosophy in your post but I have always struggled with this. Most of my hours in the day go into my work and it is no longer how I want to spend my time. I’ve searched and tried to find ways to change it with some success but it only added more hours to work and less of the balance. But finally I have reached the point where I’m going to be able to “retire” and do more of what I want. I’m looking forward to creating my day with my true priorities in mind which include time to think and write.

    • I think that’s a challenge that many people face, Holly. Perhaps you can allocate just a little time every day for your priorities. Even just half an hour day will become 15 hours a month, and 180 hours a year.

  3. I have such guilt dealing with this issue because I know what my priorities ought to be, I just lack the ability to connect the dots between here and there. Getting a plan ironed out for the middle is much harder than I thought it would be and though my goals have never changed, getting to that point has gotten discouraging to say the least. So most of my days are spent still trying to get there, but half-hearted at best since I have no idea where to put my foot next.

  4. Thanks Don and congrats on your first IOS game. you are absolutely right. I have become very concerned about how I am using my time in the days as I like so many others find ourselves running around and at the end of the day we haven’t done much. I have decided to wake up at 2am every morning and get some work done. this has worked so very well for me because if I do not get anything else done because of other thins distracting me I already have put in at least 7 hours of work and my exercise. thanks again for a great post.

  5. Great tips, Donald.

    My best time management tips are:

    1. An easy temporarily to do list
    When I am in a hurry, I write notes on my phone, and I transfer those notes to
    my master to do list at the end of the day.

    2. A master to do list
    I use a excel spread sheet (which is my master to do list) – saved in Dropbox
    (so I can access it from anywhere).

    I Prioritize the tasks using the ABCDE method:
    A :Tasks I must do – serious consequences if it doesn`t get done
    B: Tasks I should do – mild consequences if it doesn`t get done
    C: Tasks I could do – no consequences if it doesn`t get done
    D: Tasks I delegate
    E: Tasks I never do

    Here is the kicker: you never do a B task before you have done all the A tasks,
    and you never do a C task before you have done all the B tasks, etc.

    Apply the 80/20 rule: you need to identify each day, which 20% of the tasks on
    your to do list will give you 80 % of the results.

    My mantra is to help people work smarter, not harder – so they can
    achieve more by doing less.

    Tor Refsland

  6. Cary David Richards
    Cary David Richards

    One of the best ways I use to stay organized and reduce my time wasting habits is to only deal with something once. Be it a piece of paper, and e-mail a request from a co-worker or what ever. Deal with it once and move on.
    Do one of four things with it:
    Take action on it immediately
    reschedule it
    delegate it
    or
    trash it.
    Then move on and forget about it.

  7. I think it’s really important to make sure what we chose to do with our time matches our values. So often we’ve booked out huge chunks of time on things that conflict with what we beleive in – like doing a job we hate – before we even start.

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