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

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."

Stephen Covey

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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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Urgent ≠ Important

Time management can be tough. What is urgent in your life and what is important to your life are often very different things:

  • going to the gym today isn't urgent, but it is imp...
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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Make planning a habit
Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for you...

Align your to-do list with goals
  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  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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The urgency bias
The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of ta...

Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.
Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.

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