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The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency

Don't be available all the time

Time, not money, is your most valuable asset. Invest your asset:

  • Allocate time to each task you need to get done every day. 
  • Each task of the day should be attainable, realistic, and time-bound. And it should advance your goals for the day, week or month.
  • Don't get distracted by everything others expect you to do.

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The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency

The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-prioritize-between-important-and-urgent-tasks-2017-5

businessinsider.com

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Key Ideas

Oliver Emberton

Oliver Emberton

"The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency."

Important vs. urgent tasks

  • Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals.
  • Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately: phone calls, urgent deadlines, and situations where you have to respond quickly.

Sometimes important tasks stare you right in the face, but you neglect them and respond to urgent but unimportant things.

Don't be available all the time

Time, not money, is your most valuable asset. Invest your asset:

  • Allocate time to each task you need to get done every day. 
  • Each task of the day should be attainable, realistic, and time-bound. And it should advance your goals for the day, week or month.
  • Don't get distracted by everything others expect you to do.

Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey

"You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say  'no' to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside."

Being super connected

Modern technology has evolved to exploit our urgency addiction. You can be distracted simply by hearing or feeling your phone vibrate, even if you don't pick it up.

  • Try putting your phone out of sight (and touch) for uninterrupted productivity.
  • Turn off all your notifications. Choose to check these things when you take breaks.

Don't take on too much

If you get excited and take on too much, you'll be spending your energy all over the place.

Spend most of your time on the right things and the rest takes care of itself. It's not enough to just 'work hard'.

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  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.
Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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  1. Recognize that you’re in the wrong mental state. It’s not likely to lead to a calm focus. It will lead to you doing busywork or seeking distraction.
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  • Meditation
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Before going to bed, spend 5 minutes writing your to-do list for the next day. These tasks should help you move towards your professional and personal goals.

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Statistics about multi-tasking
  • Trying to focus on more than one thing at a time reduces your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s the cognitive equivalent of pulling an all-nighter.
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4 essential components of effective single-tasking:
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Unimportant tasks are really just distractions

Urgent but unimportant tasks = distractions.

Urgent tasks put us into constant “reply mode.” Important work is related to planned tasks that move us closer to our goals.

Interruptions break your flow

Anytime you are pulled away from your tasks, it takes time to readjust to them when you jump back in (sometimes it can take up to 25 minutes).

Interruptions (notifications, loud noises, social media, checking email etc.) harm your concentration.

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Urgent ≠ Important

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Eliminate half-work at all costs

Examples of half-work:

  • You start writing a report but stop randomly to check your phone for no reason or to open up Facebook or Twitter.
  • You try out a new workout routine. Two days later, you read about another “new” fitness program and try a little bit of that. You make little progress in either program and so you start searching for something better.
  • Your mind wanders to your email inbox while you're on the phone with someone.
Do the most important thing first

Decisions and choices that you make throughout the day tend to drain your willpower. You're less likely to make a good decision at the end of the day than you are at the beginning.

If you do the most important thing first, then you’ll never have a day when you didn’t get something important done.

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William James
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.”
William James
Attention Management

It's is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so you can create a life of choice, around things that are important to you.

It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. 

Choosing What You Attend To

Attention management offers a deliberate approach that puts you back in control, by managing both external and internal factors.

Practicing attention management means fighting back against the distractions and creating opportunities throughout your day to support your priorities. 

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In need of a makeover

A to-do list can be helpful but is often not used successfully. If you end the day with things undone or if you regularly carry tasks forward, you need a to-do list makeover.

Get clear on what's important
  • Most people are unaware of their priorities. Our priorities are the things that are most important to us right now. Not serving them is non-negotiable.

  • People are capable of having two or three priorities. More priorities leave them scattered and unfulfilled, filling their time with stuff that doesn't matter.

  • Once you know your priorities, everything on your to-do list should serve them. Look out for the 'shoulds' - they are not serving your priorities.

Give tasks a value

Look over your to-do list and assign every task a value, such as a dollar-per-hour amount that you might have to pay someone else to do it. Score tasks from $10 per hour for administrative tasks up to $10,000 per hour for high-level strategy and sales-related tasks.

By giving dollar-per-hour values to specific tasks, you ensure you use your resources correctly.

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Our inability to focus

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Practice mindfulness

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Organize tasks

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Ruthless prioritization

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Consolidate All of Your Tasks Into a Single Source

To-dos arrive from a variety of sources. Your boss sends you an email, you get a Slack message from IT, a bill arrives in the mail, or a coworker asks for a favor in the hallway.

In order to prioritize your task list efficiently, you need a master to-do list that contains all of the tasks you need to prioritize and complete from all of those sources.

Analyze Your Task List

Go through your list, review each task, and decide what you want to do with it. You have 4 options:

  • Do: complete the task now
  • Defer: complete it later
  • Delegate: assign it to someone else
  • Delete: remove it from your list

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