Our days get eaten up with a variety of competing concerns. We have a number of things to do in any given work day and much of it, unfortunately, is not what we think of as our main “work.”
Instead, much of what we do during our working hours is some combination of tasks – those urgent for others, those that are simply administrative, and then those that comprise learning or growth, in addition to those that are either 1) active, productive work for you, or 2) actions that somehow otherwise ‘move the ball forward’ – such as through key communications, meetings, etc.
When you learn how to balance the sum of these projects, and leverage your time in the ways most productive for you, then you are truly in charge of prioritizing your own day.
Let’s look at some of these tasks.
Tasks Urgent for Others
Unfortunately, much of what consumes our days tend to be tasks that are urgent – a last minute emergency – for OTHERS.
These tasks might be genuine problems, in that someone else is in charge of completing an item and all of a sudden it became a priority without the advance knowledge of the other person.
However, many a time, an item becomes ‘urgent’ because it was put off for too long by someone who was supposed to move the project along, and let it go dormant, until others noticed.
It’s at these times that they need you to drop everything to help them complete a task that is suddenly urgent, but didn’t need to be.
How many of these take up your day, and how do you push back to make them not your own personal emergency?
Filing of documents, returning phone calls, going to required (but unproductive) meetings – all these things fall into ‘administrative’ work.
Sometimes this work, such as documenting projects, or writing reports, is necessary and forward looking.
But other times, it is simply work that is not supportive to the overall function of your position or role.
Even emails – which tends to take over large portions of our day – can be an administrative burden, when figuring out how to answer, track and file them all.
How do you deal with administrative tasks, and keep them from taking over the bulk of your productive work time?
This is one of those tasks that we often let go for last, if we don’t manage to put a priority on it, or we sneak it in between the other necessary tasks.
Or, we relegate this to one or two days a year when we go to a ‘seminar’ or a conference. Learning and building on skill sets is something that is crucial, and yet if we’re not careful, we can leave this important task until the end.
How do you ensure you are making room – and priority – for learning and growth?
Communication/Meetings/Moving the Ball Forward
Unlike those meetings that are purely administrative, there are sets of communication and meetings are truly building relationships, gathering important information and moving the ball forward.
It’s important that you identify the communications that are really productive, and strive to make more of your communications fall into this bucket.
How do you choose which meetings to take, and how do you make your communication most productive?
Projects You Are Currently Working On (and those in Queue)
Here is the true ‘work.’ This is what you are paid to do every day, and yet… Many times, the other projects above push out of the way what’s most important.
How do you prioritize your daily tasks? How do you get thrown off track? What are the most common culprits, and how can you make sure that your time is better respected – both by others and yourself?
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.