- +++ S P E C I A L R E P O R T +++
- "The A-B-C Priority System for Time
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
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:
- 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.
- 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
- Review the list and break large tasks down into smaller
- 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
b. "B" priorities aren't as time critical, and will become ďAĒ priorities
c. "C" priorities are everything else that needs to get done.
- 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
- Estimate the time requirements for each task, and write it
down next to each task.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
ADDITIONAL TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Be positive. Why look at all the things that could
or did go wrong. Look at the positive things that will help you succeed.
- 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:
- Extremely or very successful people tend to work longer
hours and plan their days during their daily commute.
- The average American worker spends 22 minutes commuting to
work and 5% use their cellular phones during the trip
- 37% have written financial goals, and 33% have written
career goals, and 73% always or frequently know what they want to accomplish.
- 59% of Americans begin their work day by reviewing a daily
- One-third of American workers (32%) never plan their daily
work. While 45% make a daily plan at least once a week, only 9% accomplish
everything they set out to do. The higher the income, the more likely the
worker is to make a written schedule and prioritize tasks.
- More than half of workers (52%) use calendars to keep track
of their schedules, while 29% use organizers. Women are more likely than men
to use these tools.
- Men work an average of 50 hours per week while women work
42 hours a week
- 62% of American workers feel they are always or frequently
rushed to do the things they have to do. Only 5% rarely or never feel rushed.
- 40% of American workers say they would put in an additional
ten hours a week for extra pay
- 71% say they would watch less television in order to work
- Women are more likely than men to socialize the first
half-hour at work (30% vs. 22%)
- 65% of American workers spend some time but less than a
quarter of their day in meetings, and 11% spend between two and seven hours a
day in meetings. Only 36% believe none of the time spent in meetings is
- The typical American worker in a relationship spends 10
hours a week alone with their significant other.
- 52% of American workers mentioned their job as the reason
they are unable to spend more time with their significant other
- 65% listed spending more time with their family as a
priority or goal in their lives
- The majority of the workforce (78%) list getting more
exercise as a goal, while two-thirds (65%) would like to spend more time with
family and 59% would like to eat better.
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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