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Make time for effective prioritisation

May 13, 2019

How we spend our time matters. How do we start prioritising our time properly to make ourselves more efficient in the office so we can spend more time outside of it?

By Una McDevitt

We spend an average of eight hours a day at work. To break that down and put it into context, eight hours equates to only 480 minutes – and those 480 minutes have to be allocated across all of the many tasks that we are expected to complete in a working day.

On top of that, research shows that people are interrupted, on average, every seven to nine minutes while in the office. When you consider the breadth and scale of the job that you do, you’ll agree that 480 minutes a day seems like quite a limited resource to allocate. It would seem impossible to get all our work done within such a limited period. Many people work overtime to get it all done and still find that they never get their ‘to-do’ list completed.

Learning to manage yourself

The key to effective allocation of each of those precious minutes lies in having clarity around your job role and key areas of responsibility. Good time managers are not good at managing time – instead, they are good at managing themselves within the limited time that is available to them. These people have a very important attitude towards time – they recognise that each minute is precious and used carefully.

However, how do you figure out how to manage yourself? Here are five tips to get you closer to effective prioritisation:

  1. Role and responsibility:

    Be crystal clear on what your job role is and what your key areas of responsibility are within that role. Look at what you do daily and how that plays into the larger strategic plan of your organisation to really understand where your responsibilities lie.

  2. Focus:

    It’s easy to get caught up in other work that doesn’t fall under your job role, but you need to focus only on your key areas of responsibility. This helps you prioritise and keep your department or team on track.

  3. Discipline:

    Concentrate on becoming disciplined enough to ensure you continue to work on those key responsibilities and tasks even when you are interrupted or distracted.

  4. Manage others who steal your time:

    The best way to manage interruptions that could throw you off course is to deter them. Learn to say “later” when someone wants your attention when you’re in the middle of something important.

  5. Stop procrastinating and get on with it:
    At times, we can be our own worst enemies. It’s hard to pick up work that you aren’t interested in doing, but by just getting on with it, you could be adding value to your organisation and career.

Finally, good time managers recognise that time doesn’t ‘leak away’ in large amounts – instead we lose minutes in small amounts, but the accumulation of those small amounts can be significant. It could be the meeting that starts three minutes late or the five minutes ‘lost’ doing something that isn’t in your key area of responsibility. As a result, you use personal time to make up the difference, ticking away the precious minutes you’re meant to spend on yourself outside of the office.

Úna McDevitt FCA is the owner of Una McDevitt & Associates. She will be teaching the course Effective Prioritisation and Time Management on 29 May 2019 at Chartered Accountants House. Click here to book now.