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How to Determine the Priorities of Your Main Activities, Avoid Crises and Harmonize Your Life with Dynamic Time Management

The main topic of this page is how to prioritize your main activities if all they are vitally important and interdependent.

The short answer is that you should look at your 7 to 10 strategic activities from the point of view of the crisis prevention. One of the main reasons, as notes Covey, why you should spend enough time for all your activities in Quadrant 2 is that it prevents many crises and significantly diminishes the stressful, burnout and crisis management activities from quadrant 1.

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent
(May include crisis activities and pressing problems especially if quadrant 2 is neglected. Normally contains the deadline driven things, which you include into to-do list)
Quadrant 2: Important and NOT Urgent
(Corresponds to crisis prevention activities, which manage Activities and Priorities )
Quadrant 3: Urgent but NOT Important Quadrant 4: NEITHER Urgent NOR Important
(The table above in general follows Covey ideas but is different in some details)

Of course if you pay due attention to all your main activities in Quadrant 2 they all have equal priority and you can choose which activity to perform at you convenience. But if you spend on an activity less time that it deserves the priority of this activity becomes higher than normal because the neglected activity sooner or later will course crisis or even catastrophe. The more the activity is neglected the higher is its priority. So to determine the priority of the activity in our main set (quadrant 2) we should first decide how much we should spend for the activity, how frequently we should do it and after that every day compare our decision with actual time spending. I call it dynamic time management.

The problem is however that it is too boring to monitor the time spent on your activities without an external help and even time managers experts not always do it for themselves.

One solution is to hire a time management expert, which will monitor your time for you and help you to form corresponding good habits. This may be the best solution if you are able to hire really good expert for long time (up to a year) and from time to time hire her/him again for several weeks to keep your good habits alive.

Another solution is to spend five minutes every day with computer program Activities and Priorities. It also will help you to form these good habits and keep them alive. At least it helped me because initially I made it for myself being in a crisis situation. Activities and Priorities will show priorities of your main activities and reminds about dangerously neglected activities.

Either you rely on habits formed by a time manager expert or on Activities and Priorities you should determine how much time you should spend for an activity to prevent crisis and how long you can relatively safely neglect the activity. As usual the answer depends on activity and you should decide yourself. However some general considerations and approximate figures do exist.

To be specific let us consider two different activities: (physical) exercises (for the sake of your good health) and keeping good relationships with your colleagues.

It is necessary from time to time to talk with your colleagues, which you work with, about their family, weather etc. and not only say them "hello" in the morning. The contents of these conversations actually are not so important. Simply your colleagues as any people need a "signal" from your side that you respect them. Even if you are a kind person and always ready to help but is reluctant to talk with colleagues from time to time they have no opportunity to feel your attitude. In such a situation they most probably begin to feel that you neglect them, may decide that you are too proud, bad in mixing with people etc. This is potentially dangerous situation. Not all people are ready to hint you that your behavior irritates them but when, for example, your superior will ask their opinion they may say that you are bad in mixing with people and they would not like the boss like you or they may refuse to help you when you need it.

So you should have short charts with your colleagues occasionally. The charts need not to be too long. I believe that, say, 10 minutes per chart on average is enough. If you have for example 3 colleagues, whom you work in close contact with, it means 3x10 = 30 minutes but then the question arise how often you should do it? In other words how long people remember subconscious impression that you a good person that respect them?

The answer is that they begin to forget after 2 to 3 days and they forget their impressions significantly (say 2 times) in about a week. One of the ways to prove this is to recall that almost in all countries and nations people measure the time in weeks. They work about 5 to 6 days before they forget their impressions about previous Sunday or weekend and feel that they need knew one. Than they have one to two days of rest. It is just enough to slightly forget the stress of work and relax but not enough to forget the work significantly. Therefore people can resume their work in Monday with the fresh strength and not waste time to remember what they did before.

All this means that you should chart with your colleagues about three time a week and spend for it about, 30x3 = 90 minutes or about 1 hour 30 minute a week. If you spend significantly less you are at danger and Activities and Priorities will show it.

You need not to be too precise while entering spent time into Activities and Priorities because it forgive and forget natural errors. And if you consolidate time when you chat with colleagues and have all these conversations in a convenient moment, say coffee or lunch break it will not be difficult to recall approximately, say, in the morning of the next day how much time you spent for it.

Now let us briefly discuss (physical) exercises. Any coach most probably confirm that to keep your good form you should to do exercises at least 2 to 3 times a week and duration, as we discussed in previous page should be not less than 45 minutes and better 2x45 minutes with short break. For example, in aerobics most experts believe that you should train 20-60 minutes and 3-5 times per week. But of course the duration (but not frequency per week) should be much shorter if you just begin.

The bottom line is that for typical activity from Quadrant 2 you usually (but not always) should pay attention at least 2 to 3 times a week. The consolidated time may vary but typical value is between 45 and 90 minutes. All these values are here just to give you a reference points. It's your life and it is for you to decide how much you should spend for you most important activities and how frequently do it, relying on your common sense or expert advises about each particular activity. What is more important is to firmly implement into life your own decision and not forget about them. And here again Activities and Priorities can help.

In all cases Activities and Priorities will show you, which of your activity currently has higher priority and which activities are so dangerously neglected that it may course crisis. Activities and Priorities is flexible and tolerant like a good expert or coach. It has rather large white zone for activities that receive slightly less time than you planned but have insignificant deviations from normal priority (in the limits of natural fluctuations). It has the red zone for the activities that are so neglected that you should do something with it as soon as possible or crisis can occur at any moment and the violet zone for the overdone (addictive) activities.
Sample Life Dimensions

We have discussed above the activities from Quadrant 2. One of their distinct feature that if they are neglected you may expect crisis any time. However you usually cannot predict when it occurs. For example if you not pay enough attention to (physical) exercises you may be fired from your work because your productivity may become low due to the bad physical form or you may got sudden heart attack, but you cannot predict when it will happen. You simply are in the dangerous zone, in the crisis zone.

However there are so called deadline driven things, which may be part of integrated broad activities but should be treated differently. Covey includes them into quadrant 1. The simple examples are birthdays and holidays. They could have been incorporated into activity Relationships but they should be treated differently since they have clear deadline (the dates of the birthdays and holidays). If you forget about a birthday of your spouse for example because of overworking the crisis in most cases is unavoidable. The default calendars and reminders in smartphones nowadays do this job.

Quotations

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it". (Hebrews 12:11)

"One tends to drift back into time-wasting on trivia. Time use does improve with practice, but only constant efforts at managing time can prevent drifting." (Peter Drucker)

"Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas. But can it really?...True effectiveness requires balance". (Stephen Covey)

"If we learn to balance excellence in work with excellence in play, fun, and relaxation, our lives become happier, healthier, and a great deal more creative". (Ann McGee-Cooper)

"While early attempts at time management focused on organization and goal-setting, contemporary approaches require the individual to assess the relative importance of their activities through the development of a prioritization plan." (Alderman, 1995)

"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities". (Stephen Covey)

"Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It is, rather, the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things". (Stephen Covey).

"How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most". (Stephen Covey)


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