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+++ S P E C I A L R E P O R T +++
"The A-B-C Priority System for Time Management"
by George Matyjewicz, Chief Global Strategist
GAP Enterprises, Ltd.
September 24, 2002

"If you ever want to get something done, give it to a busy person" is one of my favorite statements. It should probably say give it to an organized person -- one who can manage time.

There are many people who seem to be time-challenged, which usually results from difficulties managing their time. At the end of the day find they have accomplished nothing. One of my major strengths has always been managing time. My kids can probably recite my spiel that I always give when I hear somebody say they don't have time to do something, to which I reply :

"Time is not a gift. Time is something you need to work on and manage. If you lose or waste time, you can never regain it."

A gold watch may be a gift; a kiss is a gift; but nobody gives you time. By the way, if you have to ask "where did the time go" chances are you wasted some.

I have been in the professional business world my entire career, and time management is critical for success. It is our inventory of what we sell.

I use an excel spreadsheet to manage time in projects. For my "To Do" list, I use Palm Desktop Software (my Palm unit was stolen a year ago, but, I never did like it anyway). It doesn't have estimated time column, but you can use the Notes column. Here's my approach to effectively manage time:

  1. Keep an ongoing daily "To Do" list. Many people create one each day at the same time, i.e., a brain dump at the end of the day. Thatís OK, but keeping it ongoing means it becomes part of your life. The list should include business and personal items and should be updated throughout the day. Always keep your planner open.
  2. The "To Do" list should include task name, date due, priority, estimated time to complete and brief description. You also need a space for date completed and actual time it took. If you are managing a large project with others involved, you need a column for assigned to and another for manager.
  3. Review the list and break large tasks down into smaller tasks.
  4. Prioritize the list into A-B-C priorities and assign a priority and deadline to EVERY task (including personal time):
    a. "A" priorities are important and urgent ≠ time critical. They need to get done immediately.
    b. "B" priorities aren't as time critical, and will become ďAĒ priorities soon.
    c. "C" priorities are everything else that needs to get done.
  5. Organize the "A" priorities into sub groups - "A-1", "A-2" and "A-3." You should only have one A-1 at a time. With Palm I have options for sorting the list, i.e., priority, due date, etc. With Excel I can sort on any column.
  6. Estimate the time requirements for each task, and write it down next to each task.
  7. Work on the "A" priorities only! The "B" and "C" will probably take a lot less time. Avoid the temptation to do them first! You will never get the "A" priorities done if you do the others.
  8. When each task is finished, write the actual time it took next to the task, which will be beneficial with future planning when you get similar tasks.
  9. You will note that some of the "B" or even "C" priorities have a due date that is coming close. Time to make that an "A" priority.


  1. Learn to say "no" when asked for favors or to take on tasks that impede progress toward achieving your priorities. Taking the monkey off oneís shoulder means you now have it, and that person is an effective time manager -- (s)he delegates.
  2. Nothing ever goes according to plan or schedule. Build wait time into your tasks. My old CTO was notorious for underestimating time. When asked when a task would be completed, his pat answer was "by the close of business on Tuesday." Of course, he never said what Tuesday. Once, he actually had that published on our Web site, where it remained for a month!
  3. Everything always takes longer than planned, and nobody is ever on the same wavelength as you (nor do clients want to pay what you want to charge).
  4. Maintain a balance in your life! You can't work all the time, and it is often better to step away from a project for a period of time. When you come back you will be refreshed and probably complete it faster. "Sleep on it" is not a bad philosophy.
  5. Time management should give you an accurate understanding of how long tasks really take to complete. With time management, you should obtain a more efficient means of completing even the most mundane, but necessary tasks in your life.
  6. If you do something more than once, you need a form or system. Don't reinvent the wheel. We used to joke about an old friend who believed if you opened a business and it was successful enough to open a second, which also became successful, then it was time to franchise.
  7. Read fast. A long time ago I learned how to read a document very quickly by focusing my eye on the center of each line in a page and scanning down quickly. As a result I can get the gist of a written piece very quickly. Consider a speed reading course, which work very well, especially if you need to read a lot of business documents.
  8. Sleep. What a waste of time! Actually, you should get as much sleep as you need, but not an excessive amount. My wife and I usually sleep six hours a day, and maybe seven on weekends. I never slept a lot even as a child, since I started work at 3:00 AM (delivering milk) before going to school then working after school. You can train yourself to sleep less, by rearranging your schedule to sleep 30 minutes less each day for ten days. Then 30 minutes less for another ten days until you reach your goal.
  9. Focus on today. Yesterday is history and tomorrow is the future. You can't do anything about yesterday, but you can manage the future if you get done what needs to get done today. If you worry about these other things, you will be ineffective.
  10. Don't be afraid to fail. Sales people, in particular have an issue with failure. They fail to close a deal, and carry that failure on to the next sale. Funny how that one fails also. Put failure behind you.
  11. Focus. Last year we had an executive meeting in the BVI with 20 executives from around the world. A new labor law was being passed there which could possibly affect us. For twenty minutes we bantered about the issues with the law ≠ not what to do about it, but how terrible it was. That means we just lost 400 people minutes of time! A waste. A better use of time would have been to think positively about how we could expand business and let that issue rest with the executive responsible for it. Thatís not an executive committee issue.
  12. Be positive. Why look at all the things that could or did go wrong. Look at the positive things that will help you succeed.
  13. Manage meetings. Too much time is wasted in meetings. Yes they are important, but they should be brief and to the point. A friend of mine who is CEO of a major international fashion apparel manufacturing company conducts meetings with all attendees standing. That gets them done fast and productively!


Day-Timers Inc. conducted a survey and learned:


About the author: George Matyjewicz is Chief Global Strategist at GAP Enterprises, Ltd., a marketing and management "solutioning" firm and C.E.O. of Global Pay Systems, LLC a global, digital payment company with customers in 190 countries worldwide. He is also moderator of "E-Tailerís Digest," an Internet retail discussion forum which reaches 3,000 retailers worldwide plus 100,000 in print in Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine. Mr. Matyjewicz was a partner at one of the top 20 CPA firms in the U.S.  He is presently completing his doctoral studies in Global Marketing.

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