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Could This Equation Revolutionize Your To-Do List?

A planner with 'to do list' written on it.

After some paring down, I’ve got 18 items on my to-do list. I usually dump my tasks onto a grid sheet and organize them by project area. But if I’m honest with myself I end up leaving the same tasks on this list for weeks at a time and I often bounce around between projects. Is there a better way to manage my time to get more done?

Maybe thinking in terms of time management is my first mistake. According to leadership expert John Maxwell we all have the same amount of time and time itself never changes, so trying to manage it is futile. Instead, he argues that we should manage ourselves by rethinking our priorities. To do so he outlines a three step process:

"1. Rate the task in terms of Importance.

  • Critical = 5 points
  • Necessary = 4 points
  • Important = 3 points
  • Helpful = 2 points
  • Marginal = 1 point

2. Determine the task’s urgency.

  • This month = 5 points
  • Next month = 4 points
  • This quarter = 3 points
  • Next quarter = 2 points
  • End of year = 1 point

3. Multiply the rate of importance times the rate of urgency.

  • Example: 5 (critical) x 4 (next month) = 20."

The higher numbered items get priority.

I found this approach to be powerful. Simply thinking in terms importance and urgency is a great way to focus on what matters.

It also helps me get a sense of how I manage my work in general: Are the same tasks showing up that I need to manage more efficiently? Are the same tasks getting pushed to the bottom, indicating I need another set of hands or that I should just abandon the task all together? Am I not giving myself enough time to work on projects (for example, are most of the things I work on due today/right now)?

Hat tip: Office Vibe for the John Maxwell article!

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by Allison Jones

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