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The Tyranny of the Urgent Published: Sunday, March 11, 2001 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Some of us have been fascinated with the notion of time. Perhaps it is the most paradoxical element in our lives. Either we have all the time in the world, or we never have enough of it. One thing is for sure: we can`t go to the store and by time, even though we may use the expression to mean we are putting off a decision or an inevitable conclusion.

Time is the element by which we measure our progress. We translate time into monetary worth when we achieve a task within a certain time frame and calculate a cost-per-hour figure.

Several years ago, I learned this organizational strategy. I started using Friday morning to set the scene for better use of our time. I began sharing with my team the following reflection: It is already the last day of the week and it seems like there`s a week`s worth of work still to be done. So, some of the organizational learned advice are the following.

It is important to establish goals and priorities by making a list of long and short term priorities. If not, both sets will get confused. However, one has to be somewhat flexible by not being afraid to change even hour by hour. Arrange items on your list in order to their importance. Guide them into related and specific tasks. Think for a while what can you decentralize in your list and by doing this be sure that you give clear instructions, clarify requirements, establish a deadline for the completion of the assignments, and plan to check up on its progress. Allow yourself a little leeway. If correction of work completed or clarity of instructions is required, you still have a little time to do it. By acting in such a way, you will overcome questionable tradition of conventional management: Having to give follow ups and needing the adrenaline of crisis or panic to induce high performance…

There is also the Pareto`s rule. Eighty percent of your results are generated from 20 percent of your efforts. You will maximize your time and get your best results if you concentrate on those 20 percent tasks that are critical to the completion of a project and delay or avoid those that contribute little to the success of a job. Leverage your peak energy time. If you are a morning or an evening person that is the time of work on high priority items. Group all your day activities, as for example reading all your mail at once or making all you phone calls one after the other. If you want to avoid mistakes, do all your figuring without interruptions.

Of course, interruptions are sometimes inevitable. If there were none, chances are you would not be busy and in demand, and you wouldn`t be of service to anyone… Ask your assistant to group extraneous matters so that you can take care of them at one time. Schedule specific time periods for meetings, conferences and visits. Avoid the overload of paperwork…

Be alert to the tyranny of the urgent. Most people are more likely to respond to the urgent than to the important. There is no end to this. The tyranny of the urgent is a battle we have to fight day after day in our work settings. A couple of tips. Learn how to say no nicely, so you have time for really important things. Maturity comes from the understanding of what is really important to us.

One has to be realistic about how long a task will take: Leave yourself enough time to do a job. Like budgeting, time management needs a little elasticity, and a little extra time between tasks, because things can usually take more rather than less time. Be prepare for surprises and the unexpected. But always be respectful and serious with the other person`s time and schedule…

There is a difference between doing a job right and doing the right job. Right is an important concept to consider when eliminating time wasters. Remember the formula in your next task:

effectiveness = results.

time Time is a very elastic concept. If it takes you two hours to visit the customer, make a presentation, and get back to the office you tend to figure out how much money you made and how much it comes out by the hour. But is this really all the time you spent in providing the service?


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