Tips for Time Management

Time Management Tip #1 - Learn what Matters Most.

Because we don't know what is really important to us, Everything seems important.
Because everything seems important,
We have to do everything.
Other people, unfortunately, see us as doing everything, so they expect us to do everything.
Doing everything keeps us so busy,
We don't have time to think about, what is really important to us.

From the FranklinCovey´┐Ż time management course "What Matters Most"

Remember the story of Ben Franklin from Chapter 3. Once we define our beliefs, virtues, and values prioritizing tasks becomes simpler. When we live our lives in accordance with what matters most to us, like Ben Franklin did, we can be most productive, satisfied and happy. Get into the habit of scheduling what matters most, first.

Learn To Distinguish Between The Important and The Urgent.

The science of time management advanced little if at all from the time of Franklin to the present day when a tyranny was discovered by author Alec Mackenzie. Mackenzie of Greenwich, NY is an internationally known speaker and writer on time management and is the president of his own consulting firm. He is the author of one of the most famous and valuable books on time management. The book is now in its third edition. The two previous editions of "The Time Trap" were both best-sellers.

In the book Mackenzie discovered, recognized and then defined the tyranny. He is responsible for defining the tyranny of the urgent. He described it like this.

"Urgency engulfs the time manager; yet the most urgent task is not always the most important. The tyranny of the urgent lies in its distortion of priorities. One of the measures of a manager is the ability to distinguish the important from the urgent, to refuse to be tyrannized by the urgent, to refuse to manage by crisis."

Time Management Tip #2
Is it Important or Urgent, or both, or neither?

In his book Mackenzie identifies what he believes to be the most important measure of a good time manager. It is the ability to distinguish the important from the urgent. How are you at this the most basic of time management tests? Let's try and see?

Can you define the word urgent?

The Merriam-Webster Unabridged, Online Dictionary definition may help. URGENT
Main Entry: ur •gent Pronunciation: '&r-j &nt Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin urgent-, urgens, present participle of urgEre
Date: 15th century
1 a : calling for immediate attention: PRESSING appeals> b : conveying a sense of urgency

The American Heritage´┐Ż Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. offers a slightly different slant on the word,
1. Compelling immediate action or attention; pressing. 2. Insistent or importunate: the urgent words "Hurry! Hurry!" 3. Conveying a sense of pressing importance: an urgent message.

And therein lays the problem. The word urgent and the feeling of urgency compel one to immediate attention or action. The issue that is urgent is immediate and pressing. There is a conveyed sense of pressing importance a sense of "urgency".

But, does urgent mean important? Let's try the dictionaries again, first the American Heritage

ADJECTIVE: 1. Strongly affecting the course of events or the nature of things; significant an important message that must get through; close friends who are important to me. 2. Having or suggesting a consciousness of high position or authority; authoritative: recited the decree with an important air. 3. Obsolete Importunate.

And then Merriam-Webster
im •por •tant
Pronunciation: im-' por-t&nt, esp Southern and New England -t&nt, -d&nt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English importante, from Medieval Latin important-, importans, present participle of importare to signify, from Latin, to bring into
Date: 15th century
1: marked by or indicative of significant worth or consequence: valuable in content or relationship

Herein then is the lesson! Important and urgent are not synonyms. Important is not necessarily Urgent. Urgent is not necessarily Important.

To simplify the understanding try this definition. Urgent means do it now or it is gone. The pressing need may be no longer, but the opportunity may be lost.

A ringing phone is urgent not important. If I don't answer it now, the call will be gone.

Ah, you say. But the phone call may be important! And we won't know unless we answer the call!


And therein is the tyranny of the urgency as first defined by Mackenzie. If you are not able to distinguish the urgent from the important your life can be, and will be driven by crisis. You will be forced to go from one urgent crisis to another with little or no hope of understanding what is most important, and less chance to be able to accomplish what is important to you! If we would manage time, first we must understand that there is no such thing as time management. Then we must learn to distinguish the important from the urgent.

Theories of Time

Time is an exact, absolute that continues, exists, and is without regard to individuals or human beings, according to Newton. But Einstein believed time to be relative to the observer. Regardless of your understanding of Newton to Einstein, we could agree with Newton that for us time is finite and easily measured and allocated into seconds, minutes, hours, days and years. And, we could agree with Einstein that none of us has enough time. Yet each of us has all that there is!

Today, we will have 1,440 minutes. Tomorrow we will get a new allocation. There is nothing we can do to get more or less. All we can hope to do is to manage our absolute, relative finite resource as best we can to accomplish what we will.