“Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” — Samuel Smiles
Priority Investment Planning [PIP] is a powerful set of strategies that can create massive results in little time if you spend just a few minutes a day focusing on the Most Important Things [MITs].
Prioritize Your Life
The first step to mastering your time so you can get the most out of your day is through a system I call priority investment planning (PIP). This technique is used for establishing your master priorities so you can concentrate on the things that matter most. You have to know what is most valuable to you so that you don’t get caught up in contributing to those activities and distractions that have little or no value but suck up massive amounts of time each day, month and within the year.
Consider these questions: Are you continuously struggling for more time to spend with your family? Is someone else dictating to you how and when to do things? Is too much of your time spent on pleasing others when you would rather be pursuing your own passions? Do you constantly complain about having no time, only to spend it wrapped up in trivial matters and empty tasks? If so, it is important to understand that you are not in control of your life until you learn to be in control of yourself—that is, you can self manage yourself so that you’re utilizing your most precious resource: your time!
PIP puts you in control of your life. Most people never figure out their priorities and so spend all their time chasing unimportant, non-urgent matters and responding to the never-ending needs and demands of others. Prioritizing your tasks and goals is the process of taking those things that matter most—that is, the goals and aims that contribute to your true values and the creation of a vision you have for the rest of your life.
In Stephen Covey’s wonderful book The 7 habits of Highly Effective People, he tells us that, to be most effective in the area of time management, we must “organize and execute around priorities.” This is exactly what we’re going to do: determine the most important things in your life, and build the rest of your world around those high-level activities.In other words, you are putting what matters most first.
Time Control Is about Action Management
Organizing your priorities and putting into order of importance the things that matter most is a powerful organizational skill. Clarifying and defining goals and projects is one thing, but it’s only the beginning. In order to be truly effective, you have to know the actions you’re going to take and why you’re taking them. Having said this, it isn’t enough to just schedule our priorities and hope it all works out in the end. You have to take proactive measures to control your actions in relation to those priorities.
In order to be truly effective and make a recognizable difference in your life, you have to organize your busy schedule around these priorities. This means that, no matter how many things you have on the go today or this week, determine the actions you know you must take if you are to complete the work you are setting out to achieve. Know what your tasks for that day and week are. If you fail to do this, the things that matter most will be buried under heaps of other “little” things, or the stuff that matters least. If you can manage your actions—that is, work on those activities, tasks and projects that deliver high value—you automatically begin to define the skills necessary for mastering your time.
When I look around at the actions people take, I can see the difference in those people that are working because they have to and those with a deeper purpose. They know why they’re busy and what they have to do to achieve goals and meet demands. Many people I silently observe keep busy to avoid falling into lethargy, or to stop from getting scolded by a supervisor that wants to see them looking busy. It is the select few with directed actions targeted towards a specific purpose that will accomplish their greatest dreams.
Just Do Something [and Take Action]
Let’s do a short exercise. Choose something you’ve been meaning to start but haven’t found the time. Is your house a mess? Is there a photo album you’ve wanted to put together but just haven’t had 30 minutes to do so? Is there a project that’s been on your to-do list for the past five years? Whatever it may be, choose something right now. Now, for the next 15 minutes, I want you to do some form of action on that activity. You can set a timer if you want to, but for the next 15 minutes you’re going to do something that contributes to this project, no matter how big or small it is. If you’ve been trying to start a book for the past year, write the first page (or the last). Make a chapter list. Do anything. Don’t even think too long or hard about what you’re going to do. Just do something.
After 15 minutes have passed, just stop and check out how you feel. Do you feel excited and motivated to continue, or like a great pressure valve has been released and now, instead of putting off this job or task, you know it’s possible to do it if you take some action? Even if it’s something that will take you months or years to complete, taking that first step gives you momentum. Instead of wasting time thinking about doing it, you can start to do it whenever you want. You can do this for anything. Try it with a priority task that is going to make a dent in your universe.
Organizing Things That Matter
What’s most important to you now? Is it spending time with family? Winning an election or giving a public speech? Starting your own company? Getting into the best physical shape possible? Volunteering your services? Learning a new language? Upgrading your education so you can get a better job that’s more in line with your true talents? Writing a book? Reading a series of books on how to do something? Changing your job to something more in line with your purpose? Building the house of your dreams? Saving money for the house of your dreams?
Where is your passion the strongest? Are your daily activities in line with your character values? When do you feel the most enthusiastic and energetic?
Okay, enough questions for me. I want you to get thinking about what you really want, and what you are willing to do to get it.
Knowing what you feel passionate about and you will find time for it. Organizing your priorities and knowing specifically what they are is the formula for mastering . It’s not about controlling all the little stuff or attempting to keep busy just so you look productive. It is concentrating and dedicating your time to a particular objective. You focus on your highest ambitions and do what has to be done to achieve victory within the areas that have your best passion at heart.
So, how do you know what your priority is for this week, or even for today? Up to this point everything you were doing probably felt like a priority-one situation. Dealing with everything as it’s thrown at you has become an unconscious habit. It’s in our nature to respond with a sudden reaction whenever a crisis occurs or we’re called to the line of duty. We must stop reacting to every little event as if we need to be there to fix it. The point is, learning to choose what needs to be done by you, and what can be done by someone else. As I learned to adjust my schedule around my priorities, I stopped treading down the path of least resistance. I knew when to say no, and that it was perfectly acceptable to stop trying to please everyone.
“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.” — Lee Iacocca
The key is to select and focus on those master areas of your life that will contribute to the overall progress, growth, and quality of your life. The master areas I spend the most time on contribute in some small way to designing the world I will live in in five, 10, or 20 years. In other words, I focus on the activities that are in a direct relationship with my master goals and contribute to the achievement of those goals. It’s easy to know where your priorities are: just take a look at the things that add the greatest value to your life and you’ll have an instant understanding of what you’re supposed to do with your limited time resources. The actions I engage in are constructive and positive life-building activities.
Recognizing the priority thoughts, words, and actions that govern your life is a way of valuing yourself. Remember that, if you are not fixated on a goal or high-end priority tasks, you’re probably fixated on something else; this is a distraction that pulls you off course and steers you in the wrong direction. This is where people lose time. When I’m distracted or get pulled into something else, it takes me hours or even days before I get back to what I was doing initially. Remember that your high-level priority workload grows out of your deepest desires. The subconscious knows what it wants and will help you prioritize to get it.
Know what matters most.
Take action today.
When you schedule your daily, weekly, and monthly priorities, keep these important factors in mind…
- Be very clear and exact about what you want to achieve.
- Prioritize those activities that take you closer to your desired accomplishments. Give them first place on your priority list!
- Work your schedule to fit around your priorities.
- Focus on life design, not life crises.
- Learn to say no to “urgent” matters that don’t matter.
- Delegate tasks to other people when needed.
- Be flexible in your scheduling.
- Reward yourself vigorously when you complete a goal or priority.
- Creating your destiny is fun. Enjoy yourself!
- Make time for your distractions.
- Your priorities reflect your personal values. They are a statement of what you want the most.
Take Away Action Steps:
1. Create an MIT list of 4-6 items before you go to bed. These are your high priorities you need to accomplish tomorrow.
2. Prioritize these items in order of importance.
3. Tomorrow you are going to concentrate only on the first task. Work on it until the first task is finished before moving to the next one.
4. Tackle the rest of the list the same way, moving through it until each task is complete.
5. Repeat this process everyday.