Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time and Priority

I met with An Dagda Mor yesterday concerning the task list I had provided him the day before. I was hopeful that it would allow some items to be removed from it, lessening my work load.

That is not what happened.

He first of all thanked me for putting the list together ("very useful") and then showed me his redline assignations of priority levels: 1, 2, 3. His comment was "Do them in priority of the number. 1 before 2, then three." He suggested a column for "action", listing what action would be taken. We talked about blocking out sections of time, even closing the office door to get things done.

You've noticed by now that nothing has come off of the list.

He then said a comment in passing that I just let lie there "You could also work a few more hours a day". He didn't dwell on it, I didn't point it out (I already work more than the standard every day), and we went on. I didn't think much of it until speaking with Fear Mor and Fear Beag, when Fear Mor said "I don't think that was an idle comment but a suggestion."

My afternoon went somewhat downhill from there.

Priorities. The priorities of life. The priorities that I set - and the priorities that are set for me. Time is finite and there are only so many hours in a day (24) or week (168) to accomplish anything.

If you're familiar with Stephen Covey, you'll know his four quadrant system: Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Important, Urgent and Not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important. Under this system, the priority of the item (urgency and importance) should determine what amount of time we spend on it. Covey's point is that the most people live in the crisis mode (always fighting the Urgent and Important) or the retreat from reality (the Not Urgent and Not Important). Only by pulling time from the other areas in quadrant II, the Not Urgent but Important, can we begin to be truly effective.

Which is where it breaks down for me. How do I tell people "Hey, your urgency does not trump my important. I'll get around to it". You know what happens: they go make commentary, and suddenly you're getting the call or the e-mail from a superior "You need to make this happen."

Likewise, how do you effectively tell work "Hey, my family takes priority" when the constant fear of not having a job looms over your head?

Like everything else, theory is great: how do I turn it into practice?

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