It seems the world is moving faster and faster these days. You constantly have information streaming to you from people in the office, meetings, email, voice messages, texts. You're trying to keep on top of it all and it can sometimes feel practically impossible.

So what do you do? Begin by determining what's really important to get done. Separate what's important from what's just urgent.

Don't Get Caught in the "Urgency Trap"

The problem with all the technological resources we have for communication is that they are making everything seem urgent. It can be very tempting to get caught up in it and spend most of your day responding to email instead of focusing on what's really important.

Every activity has some degree of both importance and urgency. Generally items will fall into four categories:

  1. Crisis: Important and Urgent
  2. Planning, Preparation and Prevention: Important but Not Urgent
  3. Trivial Work: Urgent but Not Important
  4. Time Wasters: Not Urgent and Not Important

Plan to Prevent Crisis from Occurring

It's easy to believe everything is important. But, in reality, some things just are more important than others. If you tend to think everything is important, it will be very difficult to prioritize. If you find yourself living in the Crisis category most of the time, your productivity will weaken and you will quite simply just burn out. It's unsustainable. The only way out is to focus on what you can do to plan for, prepare and prevent the kinds of things that force you to operate in a crisis. When the crisis does occur, you'll be equipped to handle it and move on much more easily.

The next time you find yourself working late to meet a deadline, responding to an angry customer or co-worker, or rushing to solve a problem, really push yourself to come up with answers to some of these questions:

  • "What could be done to prevent this from happening in the future?"
  • "What can I learn to make this easier next time?"
  • "Whose support or assistance needs to be involved?"
  • "What could occur in the future, and how can I anticipate it and plan to respond?"

When you answer those questions and take the necessary actions, you will be taking the actions that will help keep you out of the Crisis category for very long.

Focus on What's Important

It's important that you get in the habit of consistently identifying your most important activities and then implementing them as a priority. Other examples of things that are important but not Urgent include:

  • Preparing for a meeting
  • Planning a presentation
  • Coaching and mentoring your staff
  • Anticipating customer needs or requests
  • Brainstorming ways to streamline internal processes
  • Identifying your most important activities to accomplish each year, month
  • Create a plan to identify your most important activities each week
  • Discussing your team's most important priorities to focus on
  • Prioritizing your daily to do list to focus on what's most important
  • Enhancing your own professional development

Become A Time Master

Look for all the resources at your disposal that will help you develop the habits to consistently focus on your key priorities. Talk with your manager and team members to identify your top priorities and most important activities. Look for books, elearning courses and live online time management training classes that can help you. In the end, you'll find that you will develop the habits and skills to focus on your key priorities, accomplish greater results, reduce your stress and master the use of your time. What benefits from being an effective Time Master have you found from your own personal experience? Please share some of your ideas and comments.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Cullen is President of Quantum Learning Solutions, Inc. To learn more about our live virtual Time Management class and time profile, go to: or call us at 800-683-0681.