Finding time to get
all the things done that you want or need to do often leads to
stress. You may be able to relieve some of this stress
by prioritizing your time according to what is urgent and important. Use the
following steps to prioritize your time.
1. Put your activities into categories
Make a list
of all the things you need or want to accomplish (tasks or activities) in a
given day, week, or month. Look at the list and decide if an activity is
important, urgent, or both important and urgent. All your activities are likely
to be somewhat important and somewhat urgent, so rank them as more or less
important or urgent compared with others on your list.
Important tasks or
activities are those that are meaningful or important to you, such as spending
time with your family, helping friends, getting exercise, and creative
activities. They are also actions you must eventually take to avoid some major
problem or crisis, such as paying your bills to avoid bad credit, foreclosure,
or bill collectors.
Urgent tasks or
activities are those that must be done immediately, even if the task itself is
not very important. For example, turning the heat off under a pot of cooked
rice becomes urgent, although it rarely is a very important task. An important
task, such as paying your electric bill, becomes urgent when your electricity
is about to be cut off. Many people never deal with the important things until
they become urgent as well. This approach always leads to stress.
2. Sort your activities
Important and urgent
Important but not urgent
Not important but urgent
Not important and not urgent
3. Evaluate your priorities
Where do you spend
most of your time? Is this in line with your priorities and goals? Many people
find that they are putting most of their activities in category III (not
important but urgent). If this is the case, you may be spending most of your
time doing things that mean little to you. This often results in stress.
Category I can't be ignored but should eventually shrink with attention
to category II. For example, if you pay your bills when you get them, you won't
have to juggle your finances and hurriedly write checks on their due date. This
will also free up time to do things that are more important to you.
Most experts say that you should spend:
15% to 20% of your time in category
60% to 75% of your time in category II.
Up to 5% of
your time in category III. Time in this category is often used to do tasks that
are requested by or done for others.
The goal of this system is not merely to get more
things done or to be more efficient but to clarify the way you set your
priorities and how you choose to spend your time.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerSteven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
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